antecedent

noun
an·te·ced·ent | \ ˌan-tə-ˈsē-dᵊnt \

Definition of antecedent 

(Entry 1 of 2)

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

2a : 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

3a : 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

antecedent

adjective

Definition of antecedent (Entry 2 of 2)

: prior antecedent events

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Other words from antecedent

Adjective

antecedently adverb

Choose the Right Synonym for antecedent

Adjective

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

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.).

Examples of antecedent in a Sentence

Noun

“John” is the antecedent of the pronoun “him” in “Mary saw John and thanked him.” what are the antecedents of the American Revolutionary War?

Adjective

I'd like to follow up on an antecedent question from another reporter.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Image Rist’s feather obsession turns out to have rich antecedents. Joshua Hammer, New York Times, "The Man Who Stole Bird Feathers," 1 June 2018 With these facts, the proof of either antecedent political bias or a legitimate national security concern will finally emerge. WSJ, "The Facts, When Revealed, Will Tell All of It," 29 June 2018 At any moment, elements of these antecedents may erupt through the skin of the modern tale, as if to say that the current crisis for young black men is a tragedy too big for one era to encompass. Jesse Green, New York Times, "Review: Waiting for Po-Po in a Searing ‘Pass Over’," 18 June 2018 Yet today’s Chimerica is significantly different from its 2007 antecedent. Niall Ferguson And Xiang Xu, WSJ, "Trump and the ‘Chimerica’ Crisis," 6 May 2018 But Davis’ cadenza was not so much a jazz statement as a linkage between jazz and its antecedents in ancient Africa. Howard Reich, chicagotribune.com, "Chicago Jazz Philharmonic delivers urgent message with 'Chicago Immigrant Stories'," 15 June 2018 Trade economists love retelling the chicken-tax story, but the tax’s quirky historical antecedents actually couldn’t matter less today. WSJ, "Your Pickup Truck Takes You for a Ride," 30 Mar. 2018 But there is something about this particular noir story—which also finds strong antecedents in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window—that attracted top filmmaking talent. Nicole Sperling, HWD, "Amy Adams’s Dark New Project Could Be the Next Gone Girl," 27 Apr. 2018 Her historical antecedent is Sam Rayburn, the Texas Democrat who was speaker and lost power in the 1940s and 1950s. Z. Byron Wolf, CNN, "Paul Ryan is quitting way before other House speakers would have," 11 Apr. 2018

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

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for antecedent

Noun

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

Adjective

see antecedent entry 1

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Last Updated

29 Aug 2018

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Time Traveler for antecedent

The first known use of antecedent was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for antecedent

antecedent

noun

English Language Learners Definition of antecedent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

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

antecedent

adjective

English Language Learners Definition of antecedent (Entry 2 of 2)

: earlier in time

antecedent

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

Legal Definition of antecedent 

: earlier in time or order

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