an·​te·​bel·​lum | \ˌan-ti-ˈbe-ləm \

Definition of antebellum 

: existing before a war especially : existing before the American Civil War antebellum houses the antebellum South

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Did You Know?

Antebellum means "before the war," but it wasn’t widely associated with the U.S. Civil War (1861-1865) until after that conflict was over. The word comes from the Latin phrase ante bellum (literally, "before the war"), and its earliest known print appearance in English dates back to the 1840s. The term's earliest known association with the Civil War is found in an 1862 diary entry: "Her face was as placid and unmoved as in antebellum days." The author of that line, Mary Boykin Miller Chesnut, recorded her observations of life during the Civil War in A Diary from Dixie, often while accompanying her husband, an officer in the Confederate army, on his missions.

Examples of antebellum in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

Through March 3, 2019 This survey makes plain the violence done by those who jettisoned Reconstruction in the decade after the Civil War and wrestled to restore the South’s antebellum racial regime, gussied up in nostalgic sentiment. Edward Rothstein, WSJ, "‘Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow’ Review: Oppression’s Long Shadow," 10 Sep. 2018 But the case of antebellum Boston suggests that teaching people how to look at a picture or read a newspaper alike won’t necessarily restore social bonds strained by class, geography, and partisanship. Justin T. Clark,, "Building Boston to shape morality," 14 Apr. 2018 Most notably, the Clifford House provides insight into authentic antebellum style. Michael Candelaria,, "Eustis Neighborhood Guide," 21 June 2018 African slaves built the American south; without free labor to work it, the worth of the land of antebellum plantation owners was questionable. Andrea Gronvall, Chicago Reader, "History repeats itself over and over again at the African Diaspora Film Festival," 8 June 2018 The biggest racial fear of the antebellum white North was a black migration northward. WSJ, "The North Helped Reconstruction’s Failure," 1 June 2018 The Warfield was a glamorous old theater with an elaborately detailed rococo interior, grand antebellum-style spiral stairwells, and enormous chandeliers. Rachel Kushner, Vogue, "Rachel Kushner on the San Francisco Dives of Her Youth, and That Time She Tended Bar With Keith Richards," 27 Apr. 2018 Walker had been subject to protests in the early 1990s by an older generation of black artists — including Howardena Pindell and Betye Saar — for using racist antebellum imagery and stereotypes in her silhouetted wall works. Aaron Gilbreath, Longreads, "‘Open Casket’ and the Question of Empathy," 28 Mar. 2017 Imagine someone walking around in a voluminous sci-fi bridal gown or an antebellum hoop skirt concocted by a RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant. Kevin Riordan,, "She's the bag monster from New Jersey and she wants you to quit plastic. So do I," 14 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'antebellum.' 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 antebellum

1826, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for antebellum

Latin ante bellum before the war

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Last Updated

2 Dec 2018

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The first known use of antebellum was in 1826

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English Language Learners Definition of antebellum

: occurring in the southern U.S. during the time before the American Civil War

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the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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