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 Ruffin’s cruelty was extraordinary even for the antebellum era, the October 2018 op-ed column in The News & Observer of Raleigh asserted. Washington Post, "Court portrait of writer of notorious slave ruling reviewed," 18 Jan. 2020 The house’s unique architecture in comparison to the more antebellum homes often seen on the island attracts curious onlookers. USA TODAY, "$4 million dome home, owl surprise Christmas guest, cold sea turtles, red snapper: News from around our 50 states," 23 Dec. 2019 The site, which remains a working farm, includes nine of the original slave cabins that were built during the antebellum period. CBS News, "Wedding-planning websites downplay venues that were slave plantations," 11 Dec. 2019 The antebellum plantation experience, as lived by the enslaved, was neither happy nor joyous. al, "Plantation Christmas event near Tuscumbia ‘racist’, groups say," 12 Dec. 2019 The photograph—believed to be the earliest known image of enslaved African-Americans with cotton—reveals how slavery extended beyond elite members of antebellum society. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "This May Be the Earliest Known Image of Enslaved Individuals With Cotton," 7 Dec. 2019 Natchez Balloon Festival October 18–20 | Natchez, Mississippi Spanish moss and massive magnolias fringe antebellum estates throughout Natchez, the oldest city on the Mississippi River. Caitlin Etherton, National Geographic, "These are the 7 best fall festivals in the United States," 15 Oct. 2019 David and Marlene explain: Those two black people dressed in antebellum get-ups and serving brunch are robots David found in his uncle’s cabin by the lake. Andrea Simakis, cleveland, "‘Rastus and Hattie’ at Cleveland Public Theatre a tough, darkly funny take on race and America’s original sin," 21 Oct. 2019 The antebellum mansion that inspired the Twelve Oaks plantation, home of the Wilkes family in Gone With the Wind, is going up for sale. Melissa Locker, Southern Living, "The Georgia Mansion That Inspired “Gone With the Wind” Heads to Auction," 27 June 2019

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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The first known use of antebellum was in 1826

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Last Updated

11 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Antebellum.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Feb. 2020.

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How to pronounce antebellum (audio)

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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