ancestor

noun
an·​ces·​tor | \ ˈan-ˌses-tər also -səs- How to pronounce ancestor (audio) \

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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms & Antonyms for ancestor

Synonyms

father, forebear (also forbear), forebearer, forefather, grandfather, primogenitor, progenitor

Antonyms

descendant (also descendent)

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

The emerging picture isn’t of straight-line evolution, but rather dinosaurs with aerial abilities evolving multiple times from ancestors who lived on the ground. Riley Black, Smithsonian, "Discovery of Raptor-Like Dinosaur Adds a New Wrinkle to the Origin of Birds," 11 July 2019 Mezcal, its smokier ancestor, is less so — but that's changing. 2. Dallas News, "Best places to drink tequila in Dallas, Irving's gondola rides and more from Curious Texas this week," 28 June 2019 Elephant ancestors originated in Africa, just like ours. Paul Manger, Quartz Africa, "Elephants evolved larger brains partly thanks to climate change, say scientists," 28 June 2019 Their ingestion may be a holdover from wood-eating ancestors. Elizabeth Pennisi, Science | AAAS, "This rock-eating ‘worm’ could change the course of rivers," 18 June 2019 Indisputable fossils and artifacts from human ancestors between 700,000 and 1.5 million years old have been found at sites up to — but not exceeding — 1.49 miles, just below the hypoxia threshold. Bridget Alex, Discover Magazine, "The World Is Our Niche," 3 June 2019 However, both species evolved from warm-weather ancestors from Africa. Avery Thompson, Popular Mechanics, "Neanderthals and Woolly Mammoths Shared Genetic Traits," 10 Apr. 2019 Bees evolved from wasp ancestors around 100 million years ago. Tim Flannery, The New York Review of Books, "Tim Flannery," 7 Mar. 2019 Neanderthals interbred with ancestors of today's Europeans when modern humans began spreading out of Africa. Fox News, "Some of oldest Neanderthal bones have been DNA tested showing more than 70 differences," 26 June 2019

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.

See More

First Known Use of ancestor

13th 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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about ancestor

Statistics for ancestor

Last Updated

16 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ancestor

The first known use of ancestor was in the 13th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for ancestor

ancestor

noun

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

ancestor

noun
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

ancestor

noun
an·​ces·​tor

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

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on ancestor

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ancestor

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ancestor

Spanish Central: Translation of ancestor

Nglish: Translation of ancestor for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ancestor for Arabic Speakers

Comments on ancestor

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

WORD OF THE DAY

to complain fretfully

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What's that Smell?! Quiz

  • wide eyed dog smelling rose
  • Someone who is hircine smells like a:
True or False

Test your knowledge - and maybe learn something along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!