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

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Synonyms & Antonyms for ancestor

Synonyms

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

Antonyms

descendant (also descendent)

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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

My parents are both first-generation Americans and my ancestors are from very different parts of Europe but are genetically close. Adam Rathe, Town & Country, "Matthew Weiner Says Being a Romanoff Is "Almost Like Saying You’re a Kennedy"," 14 Oct. 2018 Modern humans, Denisovans, and Neanderthals all come from a common ancestor—but Denisovans are more closely related to Neanderthals. John Wenz, Popular Mechanics, "A New Fossil Holds an Ancient Secret About Humanity," 22 Aug. 2018 Billions of years ago the single-celled common ancestor of all life on earth split into bacteria and archaea, according to evolutionary theory. Prachi Patel, Scientific American, "Engineered Microbe Shakes Up the Tree of Life," 13 July 2018 These diverging traits have posed a puzzle for evolutionary biologists: Did the common ancestor of all living mammals, like Afrotherians and female mammals, kept its valuable reproductive organs inside its abdomen? Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian, "The Earliest Mammals Kept Their Cool With Descended Testicles," 28 June 2018 Enjoy the Connecticut River Valley mansion built in 1755 and learn the history of skills and technologies that our not so distant ancestors used on a daily basis. Courant Community, "Community News For The Glastonbury Edition," 1 May 2018 In a separate project, experts unearthed a 2,200-year-old gold coin depicting the ancient King Ptolemy III, an ancestor of the famed Cleopatra. James Rogers, Fox News, "'Cursed' ancient Egyptian sarcophagus reveals its grisly secrets," 21 Aug. 2018 One of the main questions is whether this turn-taking trait could have evolved independently in different species, rather than evolved once long ago in an ancestor shared by all the disparate species. Joshua Rapp Learn, Smithsonian, "Some Animals Take Turns While Talking, Just Like Humans. Why?," 20 June 2018 The Teeling brothers have revived a defunct brand founded a few blocks away by an ancestor in 1782 yet commit 25 percent of their annual production to innovation. Tara Nurin, Philly.com, "In Dublin, a story of whiskey is more than just one night at the pub," 8 June 2018

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

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

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Statistics for ancestor

Last Updated

4 Jun 2019

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Time Traveler for ancestor

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

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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

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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

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