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 The same election also selected the original city council, the direct ancestor of today’s Assembly. David Reamer, Anchorage Daily News, 20 Sep. 2021 In Assassin’s Creed II, Desmond relives the memories of a different ancestor, beginning with his birth and making pit stops through his young adulthood. Mac Schwerin, Wired, 2 Sep. 2021 Labor leaders, including Keeney’s ancestor Frank Keeney, were cleared of charges related to the insurrection. Abby Lee Hood, Smithsonian Magazine, 25 Aug. 2021 All the defiant joy of her verse is present in this family history, beginning with the ancestor who walked cross-country only to be sold into slavery at age 8. Los Angeles Times, 24 Aug. 2021 Times like those haunted by ancestor deadly viruses, by smallpox, by measles, by other new unseen killers. Roy S. Johnson |, al, 24 Aug. 2021 The Lucy mission gets its moniker from the fossilized partial skeleton of an early human ancestor, Australopithecus afarensis, discovered in 1974, which altered ideas about human origins and evolution. Sarah Scoles, Wired, 17 Aug. 2021 All of these birds descended from an ancestor whose voice lilted through Australian trees and whose taste buds were tickled by sweet Australian nectar. Ed Yong, The Atlantic, 8 July 2021 Still, that first season is must-see television and an obvious ancestor to Mare. Brian Tallerico, Vulture, 1 June 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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Dictionary Entries Near ancestor



ancestor cult

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Last Updated

24 Sep 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ancestor.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Sep. 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

More from Merriam-Webster on ancestor

Nglish: Translation of ancestor for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ancestor for Arabic Speakers


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