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noun pri·or \ˈprī(-ə)r\

Simple Definition of prior

  • : a monk who is the head of a religious house or order

  • : a priest whose rank is just below that of an abbot

  • : a previous time of being arrested for or found guilty of a crime

Full Definition of prior

  1. 1 :  the superior ranking next to the abbot of a monastery

  2. 2 :  the superior of a house or group of houses of any of various religious communities

pri·or·ate play \ˈprī-ə-rət\ noun
pri·or·ship play \ˈprī(-ə)r-ˌship\ noun

Origin of prior

Middle English, from Old English & Anglo-French; both from Medieval Latin, from Late Latin, administrator, from Latin, former, superior

First Known Use: before 12th century

Other Christian Religious Terms



adjective pri·or

Simple Definition of prior

  • : existing earlier in time

  • : more important than something else because it came first

Full Definition of prior

  1. 1 :  earlier in time or order

  2. 2 :  taking precedence (as in importance)

pri·or·ly adverb

Examples of prior

  1. Do you have a prior history of back problems?

  2. The job requires prior experience in advertising.

  3. The defendant had a prior record of convictions.

  4. I'm sorry, but we have a prior commitment and can't come tonight.

  5. We have a prior claim to the estate.

Origin of prior

Latin, former, superior; akin to Latin priscus ancient, prae before — more at for

First Known Use: 1709

Synonym Discussion of prior

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>.

Rhymes with prior


biographical name pri·or \ˈprī(-ə)r\

Definition of Prior

  1. Matthew 1664–1721 Eng. poet

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up prior? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


February 11, 2016

the holder of an office

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