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 new findings are not, however, the first clue that our ancestors ventured to high altitudes earlier than experts once thought. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Archaeologists Uncover Evidence of an Ancient High-Altitude Human Dwelling," 10 Aug. 2019 In fact, many of their own ancestors were undocumented immigrants, beneficiaries of an era of open borders. Aaron Freedman, The New Republic, "Open Borders Made America Great," 9 Aug. 2019 The shocking imagery is eerily and painfully reminiscent of slave hunters of the past who would tie up our enslaved ancestors—captured while attempting to escape to freedom—and parade them through town for all to see. Danielle Young, Essence, "Why Did White Galveston Police Officers Use A Leash On This Black Man?," 9 Aug. 2019 After Curley was elected mayor, smelling salts were needed to revive the good ladies in the city’s finer homes who wondered if this was what their ancestors fought the Revolutionary War for. Kevin Cullen, BostonGlobe.com, "The nice lady from Beacon Hill and the Southie housewife," 8 Aug. 2019 Chart the complexities of global genetic variation and the weird, looping pathways that led from our distant ancestors down to us. Charles King, Time, "American Students Are Taught Racism Is Bad—But They're Still Not Learning the Truth About Race," 6 Aug. 2019 Situated far from the glare of city and small town lights, these places offer the same unimpeded view of the cosmos that our ancestors saw thousands of years ago, before electric lighting conquered the darkness. Christopher Ingraham, Washington Post, "Where the last pristine skies in America are," 6 Aug. 2019 Our ancestors chowed down on quite a bit of collagen as a natural way of life, since earlier traditional diets incorporated whole-animal eating. Better Health Market, Detroit Free Press, "The top 5 ways collagen can help your body run better," 30 July 2019 But his immediate Jewish ancestors were not devout. The Economist, "Boris Johnson’s confusing and contradictory religious history," 27 July 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

13 Aug 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

a usually brief trip or an expedition

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Summer 2019 Words of the Day Quiz

  • a-bowl-of-peach-sorbet-with-cut-peaches-next-to-it
  • Which is a synonym of desideratum?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

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!