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 Membership is open to any woman who can document participation by her direct ancestor in the American Revolution, either in combat or in some other capacity., "DAR honors Bel Air’s 'Capt’n’ Jim McMahon as its outstanding veteran volunteer for 2020," 19 Sep. 2020 Health experts believe pandemics that have happened since are still directly related to the 1918 ancestor. Kevin Bessler, Washington Examiner, "Health historian finds similarities between COVID-19 pandemic and 1918 pandemic," 9 Sep. 2020 The French Reinette is a close direct ancestor of most modern varieties and also a parent or grandparent to many heirloom varieties. Francesca Giuliani-hoffman, CNN, "A 194-year-old apple tree, the matriarch of the Northwest apple industry, has died," 22 Aug. 2020 Karen, by contrast, had worked for years just to confirm the basic facts of her ancestor’s early life. Ann Banks, Smithsonian Magazine, "Two Women, Their Lives Connected by American Slavery, Tackle Their Shared History," 19 Aug. 2020 That wild ancestor of today's cattle became extinct in the 17th century. Karel Janicek, Star Tribune, "Bison, other beasts return life to a former Soviet army base," 8 Aug. 2020 Our current cottage was built in 1980 on property that has been in our family since 1854, when my ancestor, Daniel Nilson, immigrated from Sweden. Star Tribune, "Cabin country: The area was settled in 1854, and promptly settled into," 3 Sep. 2020 In 1880, an ancestor founded textile maker Shuford Mills. Bob Davis, WSJ, "A Furniture Maker’s Five-Month Struggle With Covid. ‘You Can’t Really Have a Plan.’," 3 Sep. 2020 The descendants acknowledge that their ancestor was from the South and was a slaveholder. The Salt Lake Tribune, "Descendants of slaveholder Smoot argue renaming BYU building ’accomplishes nothing’ in addressing racism," 2 Sep. 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

23 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ancestor.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Sep. 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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