Purple prose

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Purple prose is a noun phrase used to describe prose that is showy, elaborate, or overemotional. The term is used particularly when the writing gets in the way of the reader’s experience. It does not need quotation marks or a hyphen.


The term is attributed to the Roman poet Horace, who died in 8 BC. The Latin words professis purpureus have been translated as purple patches, purple cloth, or purple prose. In that time period purple was specifically associated with royalty.


Fans of our language and how quickly literary fashions change will laugh at the purple prose that in our grandparents’ time was the middlebrow norm. [LA Daily News]

Most letters written in the throes of love suffer from lack of restraint, high heat and purple prose. [Yakima Herald]