antecedent

noun
an·​te·​ced·​ent | \ ˌan-tə-ˈsē-dᵊnt How to pronounce antecedent (audio) \
plural antecedents

Definition of antecedent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 grammar : a substantive word, phrase, or clause whose denotation is referred to by a pronoun that typically follows the substantive (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 But others stress differences between the two, finding that where i.e. paraphrases its antecedent, viz. Melissa Mohr, The Christian Science Monitor, "Tips on how to become a ‘viz.’ whiz," 3 Dec. 2020 This outlandish, anti-democratic venture has no antecedent in modern American history, but Trump and Giuliani gave up caring about precedent long ago. John Cassidy, The New Yorker, "Rudy Giuliani Is a Hot Mess," 20 Nov. 2020 Greek asylums, often connected to a particular divinity and stifled under Roman rule, were the antecedent of the asylum tradition that developed in the Christianized empire. Rafil Kroll-zaidi, The New York Review of Books, "The Revival of Church Sanctuary," 3 Nov. 2020 The idea of an exit tax has an antecedent in Weimar Germany’s Reichsfluchtsteuer, a tax originally introduced to stem capital flight by the wealthy in 1931, a rough year for the German economy. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The Capital Letter: Week of October 19," 23 Oct. 2020 But the novel’s clearest literary antecedent is John Dos Passos, particularly the fractal, telegraphic style of his 1925 portrait of disparate city lives, Manhattan Transfer. Andrew Martin, Harper's Magazine, "New Books," 15 Sep. 2020 But our family home did have its own antecedent to the home office. Robin Kaiser-schatzlein, The New Republic, "Remote Work Won’t Save Us," 3 Aug. 2020 However, the researchers found that an anxious attachment style was a particularly strong antecedent of the tendency for interpersonal victimhood. Scott Barry Kaufman, Scientific American, "Unraveling the Mindset of Victimhood," 29 June 2020 Surely the random choice was not made in zero time, without any antecedents. Quanta Magazine, "Solution: ‘Randomness From Determinism’," 22 Nov. 2019

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 and Adjective

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

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Time Traveler for antecedent

Time Traveler

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

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Cite this Entry

“Antecedent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/antecedent. Accessed 26 Feb. 2021.

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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)
formal : something that came before something else and may have influenced or caused it
formal : the people in a family who lived in past times

antecedent

adjective

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

formal : 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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Comments on antecedent

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