an·​ces·​tor | \ ˈan-ˌse-stər How to pronounce ancestor (audio) also -sə- \

Definition of ancestor

1a : one from whom a person is descended and who is usually more remote in the line of descent than a grandparent Her ancestors came to America in the 1880s.
2 : forerunner, prototype an exhibit of the ancestors of the modern computer
3 : a progenitor (see progenitor sense 1b) of a more recent or existing species or group the ancestor of the modern horse

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Examples of ancestor in a Sentence

My ancestors came to America during the 1800s. Her ancestors were great sea captains. an ancient animal that was the ancestor of the modern horse The museum included an exhibit showing ancestors of the modern computer. several languages that are derived from a common ancestor Latin is the ancestor of Italian and French.
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Recent Examples on the Web The team then found a common ancestor between the relatives and the killer and created family trees down to the present day. Justin Jouvenal, Washington Post, "Man accused of being ‘Golden State Killer’ expected to plead guilty," 29 June 2020 Studies of chimpanzee foraging techniques suggest that humans’ last common ancestor with other primates foraged cooperatively, according to a 2014 paper by Tomasello. Rebecca Renner, National Geographic, "Why some people can't resist crowds despite the pandemic," 24 June 2020 So David is not just a central ancestor in the Old Testament. Ruth Margalit, The New Yorker, "In Search of King David’s Lost Empire," 22 June 2020 That plan was blocked by a 10-day court injunction – now extended through late July – based on the petition of a man whose ancestor, Otway Allen, gave Virginia the land the the sculpture sits on. Allison Anna Tait, The Conversation, "Latest legal hurdle to removing Confederate statues in Virginia: The wishes of their long-dead white donors," 19 June 2020 More than 100 million years ago, an ancestor of today’s alligators and crocodiles wandered through present-day South Korea on its hind limbs, scientists announced June 11 in the journal Scientific Reports. Popular Science, "Crocodiles’ ancient ancestors may have walked on two legs," 16 June 2020 The precinct’s ancestor is the plantation cabin filled with overseers, between the slave quarters and the big house. Danez Smith, The New Yorker, "Crying, Laughing, Crying at the George Floyd Protests in Minneapolis," 5 June 2020 Before agriculture was established, foraging helped feed our ancestors and heal their ailments. National Geographic, "CREATE A FREE NAT GEO ACCOUNT TO CONTINUE READING," 18 May 2020 Before our ancestors emigrated to the US and Israel or were murdered at Treblinka, the Perlshteins, as they were known then, a family with nine children, comprised the main orchestra in Wasilków, Russia. Joanna Pearlstein, Wired, "How We'll Learn to Sing Together When We're Far Apart," 16 May 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ancestor.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ancestor

14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for ancestor

Middle English ancestre, from Anglo-French, from Latin antecessor predecessor, from antecedere to go before, from ante- + cedere to go

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Time Traveler for ancestor

Time Traveler

The first known use of ancestor was in the 14th century

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Statistics for ancestor

Last Updated

13 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ancestor.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for ancestor


How to pronounce ancestor (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of ancestor

: a person who was in someone's family in past times : one of the people from whom a person is descended
: an animal in the past from which a modern animal developed
: something in the past from which something else has developed


an·​ces·​tor | \ ˈan-ˌse-stər How to pronounce ancestor (audio) \

Kids Definition of ancestor

1 : a person from whom someone is descended
2 : something from which something else develops



Legal Definition of ancestor

1a : a person from whom an individual is descended : ascendant
b : a person from whom an estate descends — compare heir
2 : one that precedes ancestor in title

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