an·​te·​bel·​lum | \ ˌan-ti-ˈbe-ləm How to pronounce antebellum (audio) \

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

This columned, ersatz-antebellum megamansion, in operation just ten days a year, has got to be the fanciest media center in sports. Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker, "Inside the Cultish Dreamworld of Augusta National," 14 June 2019 In partial mitigation, Flade remarked that people living in antebellum Alabama could not easily oppose slavery, which is quite true. Sarah Churchwell, The New York Review of Books, "‘The Lehman Trilogy’ and Wall Street’s Debt to Slavery," 11 June 2019 Heaven is a business, the antichrist is an environmentalist and the last survivors of humanity wear antebellum dresses color-coded in purple and gray. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, "Why TV like 'Good Omens' and 'American Horror Story' wants you to laugh at the apocalypse," 4 June 2019 Members of the city’s white elite would dress in antebellum outfits and perform spirituals, unaware of jarring ironies. Edward Rothstein, WSJ, "A Historical Society Grapples With the Past," 10 Oct. 2018 The estate spans roughly 87 acres; at the center sits a Southern antebellum Greek Revival Plantation home with sprawling rear verandas overlooking the North Newport River. Katherine Clarke, WSJ, "The Secluded Island Hideaways for America’s Rich and Famous," 23 Aug. 2018 The coastal city in Georgia has attracted many U.S. residents and Europeans because of its antebellum architecture, cobblestone streets and large parks and squares, all along the water. Nancy Trejos, USA TODAY, "Dream homes: Five tempting homes for sale in Savannah," 11 July 2018 The estimable Charleston Museum is about to unveil a new section about the war with a more dispassionate perspective, but there is no doubt about how radically the war tore apart the antebellum world. Edward Rothstein, WSJ, "A Historical Society Grapples With the Past," 10 Oct. 2018 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

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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1 Jul 2019

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The first known use of antebellum was in 1826

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English Language Learners Definition of antebellum

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

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