an·​te·​ri·​or an-ˈtir-ē-ər How to pronounce anterior (audio)
: situated before or toward the front
an anterior ligament
: situated near or toward the head or part most nearly corresponding to a head
: coming before in time or development
labor problems anterior to the strike
anteriorly adverb

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Anterior generally appears in either medical or scholarly contexts. Anatomy books refer to the anterior lobe of the brain, the anterior cerebral artery, the anterior facial vein, etc. Scholar and lawyers may use anterior to mean "earlier in time or order". For example, supporters of states' rights point out that the individual states enjoyed certain rights anterior to their joining the union. And prenuptial agreements are designed to protect the assets that one or both parties acquired anterior to the marriage.

Choose the Right Synonym for anterior

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

Examples of anterior in a Sentence

the anterior part of the brain the anterior chamber of the eye is bounded in front by the cornea
Recent Examples on the Web Miura and his colleagues were expecting the activity of Hox genes to be different in the anterior and posterior of a worm. Elizabeth Rayne, Ars Technica, 8 Dec. 2023 The dumbbell overhead press is a pushing exercise that primarily works your anterior deltoids, or anterior delts, which are your front shoulder muscles, Evan Williams, CSCS, CPT, founder of E2G Performance, tells SELF. Jenny McCoy, SELF, 5 Dec. 2023 There is nothing authoritative that is conceived to be anterior, exterior, or superior to the self. M. D. Aeschliman, National Review, 25 Dec. 2023 The researchers observed that the men’s brain post-tear sniff exhibited less activity in the prefrontal cortex and the left anterior insula, regions that are associated with aggression and decision-making. Rachel Nuwer, Scientific American, 21 Dec. 2023 Frustrating or aggravating conversations with relatives often trigger a region of the brain known as the anterior cingulate cortex. Seena Mathew, Discover Magazine, 14 Dec. 2023 Frontotemporal dementia Frontotemporal dementia (FTD) is a group of degenerative diseases that gradually damage or shrink the brain’s frontal and anterior temporal lobes, located in the front of the brain. Lauren J. Mapp, San Diego Union-Tribune, 21 Nov. 2023 Those anterior genes were especially active at the center of each arm, whereas the genetic signatures became more posterior moving out toward the perimeter of each arm. Lori Youmshajekian, Scientific American, 3 Nov. 2023 The delts have three distinct heads: the anterior (front) delts, the lateral (a.k.a. medial or side) delts, and the posterior (rear) delts. Brett Williams, Men's Health, 7 June 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'anterior.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Latin, comparative of ante before — more at ante-

First Known Use

1541, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of anterior was in 1541

Dictionary Entries Near anterior

Cite this Entry

“Anterior.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


an·​te·​ri·​or an-ˈtir-ē-ər How to pronounce anterior (audio)
: placed or being before or toward the front
: coming before in time
anteriorly adverb

Medical Definition


an·​te·​ri·​or an-ˈtir-ē-ər How to pronounce anterior (audio)
: relating to or situated near or toward the head or toward the part in headless animals most nearly corresponding to the head
: situated toward the front of the body : ventral
used in human anatomy because of the upright posture of humans
anteriorly adverb

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