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TO PROLONG /prəˈlɔŋ/(opposed to CUT SHORT) means to make something last longer or stretch it out in time beyond usual or normal limits; to continue beyond the desired, estimated, or allotted time.

"Additives are used to prolong the shelf life of packaged food."

If you prolong an argument with a sibling, you make it longer than it naturally would be. You can prolong an interview/one's childhood/one's stay abroad/the process of digestion/a line, life, etc.

"High interest rates were prolonging the recession."

Prolong often means to go on for a longer time in the same way; to extend or stretch out the length of time something takes, with no respite or break.

"His ordeal was prolonged because the rescuers were delayed."

Prolong almost always has to do with time. That said, it can also be used to mean to extend in spatial length; to lengthen in extent, scope, or range.

"The line of his lips was prolonged in a short red scar"

It often has an implication that the increase is somehow extra, beyond what was originally planned, and often done when you are already in that meeting, visit, stay, etc.

"The meeting, scheduled to last 2 hours, had to be prolonged because some participants talked too much."

Some users also feel that 'prolong' is often preferred for something undesirable, like war, agony, or a visit that keeps Grandpa from resting.

"Janet and John prolonged their visit to England because Janet injured her back."

TO EXTEND /ɪkˈstɛnd, ɛkˈstɛnd/ is to lengthen beyond some original point or so as to reach a certain point: to extend a railway line (make it longer)/a house (make it bigger)/public awareness (increase)/one's visa, etc.

"She extended her visit by another day."

Many users feel that 'prolong' more often suggests an involuntary reason for the extra time needed; while 'extend' more often suggests that personal choice has driven the option for extra time.

"We extended our visit as we were all enjoying ourselves."
"Our visit was prolonged due to the snowstorm blocking off the roads."

TO EXTEND (FROM/FROM...TO/INTO/OVER/BEYOND/ALONG/FOR/BY/UNTIL, etc) have several related meanings, including thrust out, continue, broaden, expand, unfold, span, increase in scope, etc.

"The beach extends beyond the horizon."

If you say that something, usually something large, extends for a particular distance or extends from one place to another, you are indicating its size or position.

"The caves extend for some 18 miles."

If an event or activity extends over a period of time, it continues for that time.

"His playing career in first-class cricket extended from 1894 to 1920."

If something extends to a group of people, things, or activities, it includes or affects them.

"The service also extends to wrapping and delivering gifts."

If a piece of equipment or furniture extends, its length can be increased.

"The table extends to 220cm."

It can also, most notably, mean to:

1. increase the size of a building or area, esp. by adding extra parts onto it.

"We're going to extend the first floor."

2. make something include more things, areas, or subjects.

"The company has recently extended its range of products."

3. increase the power of something: to extend influence/control.

"It was an attempt to extend their influence in world affairs."

You extend (hold out) your hand when you offer to shake. You extend (push forward) a deadline when you add a few days to it. Your belly might extend (broaden) after a holiday dinner.

"Beauty, I suppose, opens the heart, extends the consciousness." [Algernon Blackwood]

You can extend (advance) your potential through job training. Your company can extend credit for customers (make available). You can also work long and hard without seeming to extend yourself (exert oneself to full capacity).

"The war extended for five years."

You can extend your hand in greeting (hold out) or sit with your legs extended (stretched out). You can extend a welcome/thanks/greetings/congratulations/sympathy/apologies/help, etc. to someone (offer).

"This license does not extend beyond the end of May."

A telescope extends (expands) your range of vision. If the list of definitions for extend were infinite, you could extend (add to) that list forever and ever. But your patience might not extend that far.

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