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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Synonyms & Antonyms for ancestor



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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 Helms plays Nathan Rutherford, a loyal ancestor of the founder of the Northeast town of Rutherford Falls, Lawrence Rutherford., 21 Apr. 2021 Molecular analysis has shown that about 4 million years ago, the ancestor of the current Magicicada species split into two lineages. The Conversation, oregonlive, 13 Mar. 2021 If the common ancestor of the human and the chimpanzee used its big brain to develop a deep sense of death, then the human notion of life may exist at some level of our cognition that simply does not unlock with science’s key. Jo Livingstone, The New Republic, 12 Mar. 2021 The bone in question probably came from an auroch, a large ancestor of cows and oxen that went extinct about 500 years ago. Isis Davis-marks, Smithsonian Magazine, 8 Feb. 2021 Their ancestor, Richard Lee I, arrived in Virginia in 1639, made a fortune in tobacco and started the politically influential Lee family in Virginia. al, 17 May 2021 The typewriter, the ancestor of our modern keyboards, was created to enable blind people to type, while the remote control was designed to make television more accessible to the physically impaired. Caroline Casey, Forbes, 12 May 2021 The book includes newspaper articles, Lancaster’s state regent messages and a history of Lancaster’s ancestor, James Templin of Pennsylvania, who aided the colonists in the fight for independence during the American Revolution. Linda Mcintosh, San Diego Union-Tribune, 11 May 2021 An interview in 1937 with her ancestor Katie Brown, one of the oldest living women on Sapelo Island, Georgia, illustrates the long history of Islam in the South. Erica Armstrong Dunbar, The New York Review of Books, 13 Apr. 2021

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

8 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ancestor.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for ancestor



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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