noun an·te·ced·ent \ ˌan-tə-ˈsē-dᵊnt \
|Updated on: 15 Aug 2018

Definition of antecedent

1 grammar : a substantive word, phrase, or clause whose denotation is referred to by a pronoun (such as John in "Mary saw John and called to him"); broadly : a word or phrase replaced by a substitute
2 a : a preceding event, condition, or cause
  • events that were antecedents of the war
b antecedents plural : the significant events, conditions, and traits of one's earlier life
3 a : predecessor; especially : a model or stimulus for later developments
  • The sackbut was the antecedent of the trombone.
b antecedents plural : ancestors, parents
  • He was proud of his Scottish antecedents.
4 : the conditional element in a proposition (such as if A in "if A, then B")
5 mathematics : the first term of a mathematical ratio

Examples of antecedent in a Sentence

  1. “John” is the antecedent of the pronoun “him” in “Mary saw John and thanked him.”

  2. what are the antecedents of the American Revolutionary War?

Recent Examples of antecedent from the Web

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Did You Know?

A basic principle of clear writing is to keep your antecedents clear. Pronouns are often used in order not to repeat a noun (so instead of saying "Sheila turns 22 tomorrow, and Sheila is having a party", we replace the second "Sheila" with "she"). But sloppy writers sometimes leave their antecedents unclear (for instance, "Sheila helps Kathleen out, but she doesn't appreciate it", where it isn't clear who "she" is). Watch out for this possible problem when using not just he and she but also they, them, it, this, *and *that. And keep in mind that antecedent isn't just a grammar term. You may talk about the antecedents of heart disease (such as bad eating habits), the antecedents of World War II (such as the unwise Treaty of Versailles), and even your own antecedents (your mother, grandfather, etc.).

Origin and Etymology of antecedent

Middle English, from Medieval Latin & Latin; Medieval Latin antecedent-, antecedens, from Latin, what precedes, from neuter of antecedent-, antecedens, present participle of antecedere to go before, from ante- + cedere to go

Other Grammar and Linguistics Terms




Definition of antecedent

: prior
  • antecedent events



Examples of antecedent in a Sentence

  1. I'd like to follow up on an antecedent question from another reporter.

Origin and Etymology of antecedent

Synonym Discussion of antecedent

preceding, antecedent, foregoing, previous, prior, former, anterior mean being before. preceding usually implies being immediately before in time or in place.
    • the preceding sentence
antecedent applies to order in time and may suggest a causal relation.
    • conditions antecedent to the revolution
foregoing applies chiefly to statements.
    • the foregoing remarks
previous and prior imply existing or occurring earlier, but prior often adds an implication of greater importance.
    • a child from a previous marriage
    • a prior obligation
former implies always a definite comparison or contrast with something that is latter.
    • the former name of the company
anterior applies to position before or ahead of usually in space, sometimes in time or order.
    • the anterior lobe of the brain

ANTECEDENT Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of antecedent for English Language Learners

  • grammar : a word or phrase that is represented by another word (such as a pronoun)

  • : something that came before something else and may have influenced or caused it

  • antecedents : the people in a family who lived in past times


Definition of antecedent for English Language Learners

  • : earlier in time

Law Dictionary


adjective an·te·ce·dent \ ˌan-tə-ˈsēd-ᵊnt \

legal Definition of antecedent

: earlier in time or order

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