Intermediate+ Word of the Day: pursue

pursue (verb) /pɚˈsu/ LISTEN

To pursue someone means ‘to follow in order to overtake, capture, or kill.’ To pursue something means ‘to continue in order to achieve a goal.’ If you pursue a career, it means that you practice that activity. Pursue also means ‘to continue discussing a question.’ More broadly, pursue means ‘to follow or continue.’

Example sentences

  • The hunters pursued the stag through the forest.
  • Fiona is pursuing her studies in medicine.
  • Ian is pursuing a career in journalism.
  • I'd like to pursue this topic a little further.
  • The party pursued the same route all the way to the mountain.

Words often used with pursue

pursue your dreams: to strive to achieve your ambitions. Example: “It’s important to pursue your dreams, otherwise you’ll never know if you could have achieved them or not.”

In pop culture

The 1971 movie Duel is about a car driver who is pursued by a large truck throughout the whole movie. You can see the trailer for it here:

Additional information

Pursue can be used as a synonym for chase, but when you chase someone or something, there is an implication of exertion and speed, while pursue implies a more steady, deliberate effort.

Commonly confused with

Be careful not to confuse pursue with peruse, which means to look through something carefully.

Other forms

pursuit (noun), pursuer (noun), pursuant (adjective)

Origin

Pursue, which originally meant ‘to follow with hostile intent,’ dates back to the early 13th century, as the Middle English pursuen. It came into English through the Anglo-French pursuer and the Old French poursuir, a variant of the Old French porsuivre (‘to chase, pursue or follow,’ and ‘to continue or carry on’). It can be traced back to the Vulgar Latin prosequare and the Latin prosequi (‘to follow, accompany or attend,’ ‘to follow up or pursue,’ and ‘to follow after or escort’). The Latin verb is made up of the prefix pro– (‘forward,’ from Proto-Indo-European root pro-) and the verb sequi (to follow), which can be traced back to the Proto-Indo-European root seqw (also ‘to follow’). It is related to the French poursuivre and the Spanish perseguir (both meaning ‘to follow or chase’), along with many other Romance-language verbs, and the English verbs prosecute and sue. The meaning ‘to proceed or follow,’ whether used literally (a path, for example) or figuratively, dates back to the late 14th century, even though this sense already existed in Latin.

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