noun an·te·ced·ent \ˌan-tə-ˈsē-dənt\

grammar : a word or phrase that is represented by another word (such as a pronoun)

: something that came before something else and may have influenced or caused it

antecedents : the people in a family who lived in past times

Full Definition of ANTECEDENT

:  a substantive word, phrase, or clause whose denotation is referred to by a pronoun (as John in Mary saw John and called to him); broadly :  a word or phrase replaced by a substitute
:  the conditional element in a proposition (as if A in if A, then B)
:  the first term of a mathematical ratio
a :  a preceding event, condition, or cause
b plural :  the significant events, conditions, and traits of one's earlier life
a :  predecessor; especially :  a model or stimulus for later developments
b plural :  ancestors, parents

Examples of ANTECEDENT

  1. John is the antecedent of the pronoun him in Mary saw John and thanked him.
  2. <what are the antecedents of the American Revolutionary War?>


Middle English, from Medieval Latin & Latin; Medieval Latin antecedent-, antecedens, from Latin, what precedes, from neuter of antecedent-, antecedens, present participle of antecedere to go before, from ante- + cedere to go
First Known Use: 14th century

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms

ablaut, allusion, anacoluthon, diacritic, gerund, idiom, infinitive, metaphor, semiotics, simile



: earlier in time

Full Definition of ANTECEDENT

:  prior
an·te·ced·ent·ly adverb

Examples of ANTECEDENT

  1. <I'd like to follow up on an antecedent question from another reporter.>

First Known Use of ANTECEDENT

14th century

Synonym Discussion of ANTECEDENT

preceding, antecedent, foregoing, previous, prior, former, anterior mean being before. preceding usually implies being immediately before in time or in place <the preceding sentence>. antecedent applies to order in time and may suggest a causal relation <conditions antecedent to the revolution>. foregoing applies chiefly to statements <the foregoing remarks>. previous and prior imply existing or occurring earlier, but prior often adds an implication of greater importance <a child from a previous marriage> <a prior obligation>. former implies always a definite comparison or contrast with something that is latter <the former name of the company>. anterior applies to position before or ahead of usually in space, sometimes in time or order <the anterior lobe of the brain>.


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