before

adverb or adjective
be·​fore | \ bi-ˈfȯr How to pronounce before (audio) , bē- \

Definition of before

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : in advance : ahead marching on before
2 : at an earlier time the night before knew her before

before

preposition

Definition of before (Entry 2 of 3)

1a(1) : forward of : in front of stood before the fire
(2) : in the presence of speaking before the conference
b : under the jurisdiction or consideration of the case before the court
c(1) : at the disposal of the great sums placed before him
(2) : in store for got the whole summer before you
2 : preceding in time : earlier than just before noon
3 : in a higher or more important position than put quantity before quality

before

conjunction

Definition of before (Entry 3 of 3)

1a(1) : earlier than the time that call me before you go
(2) : sooner or quicker than I'll be done before you know it
(3) : so that … do not get out of there before you get dirty
b : until the time that miles to go before I sleep— Robert Frost
c(1) : or else … not must be convicted before he can be removed from office
(2) : or else get out of here before I call a cop
2 : rather or sooner than would starve before he'd steal

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Synonyms & Antonyms for before

Synonyms: Adverb or adjective

Synonyms: Preposition

Antonyms: Adverb or adjective

Antonyms: Preposition

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Examples of before in a Sentence

Preposition We arrived shortly before six o'clock. He left just before sunrise. I've never seen her so happy before now. Call me before your arrival. She arrived the day before yesterday. Why haven't you ever helped me before now? Your name is listed before mine. You'll see my house just before the bank and after the school. The Great Plains stretched endlessly before them. The championship fight took place before a crowd of thousands. Conjunction He left long before morning came. Say goodbye before you go. Call me before you arrive. I finished the exam before he did. It was not long before he arrived.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb or adjective While sometimes dry and methodical, the presentation reached an emotional climax when California Rep. Eric Swalwell showed graphic video, much of it not seen before. David Bauder, Chron, "Fox abruptly cuts off impeachment manager during testimony," 10 Feb. 2021 More video is expected Wednesday, including some that hasn’t been seen before. Eric Tucker, BostonGlobe.com, "Prosecutors call Trump ‘inciter in chief’ in opening impeachment arguments," 10 Feb. 2021 The party has seen this before, uncomfortably recently. Melissa Gira Grant, The New Republic, "The Ascension of Marjorie Taylor Greene," 3 Feb. 2021 But there was also another glass ceiling breaker before, albeit on an acting basis. Jamie Mcintyre, Washington Examiner, "Blinken: As US offers conditional return to nuclear deal, Iran could soon be weeks away from having material for nuclear bomb," 2 Feb. 2021 The pandemic has created conditions unlike anything mental health professionals have seen before, making causation that much more difficult to determine. New York Times, "surge of student suicides," 25 Jan. 2021 There’s hope, experts say, that markets could be the push farmers need to take up regenerative practices such as not tilling the soil, using cover crops or applying rotational grazing at a scale and speed not before seen. IndyStar, "There is a lot of money on the table with carbon markets. But farmers are skeptical.," 18 Jan. 2021 The bright dot, astronomers concluded, was something never before seen. Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker, "Have We Already Been Visited by Aliens?," 18 Jan. 2021 Freshman defenseman Mike Koster said the Gophers hadn't seen a forecheck like Wisconsin's before but learned how to handle it. Star Tribune, "Series preview: Gophers men's hockey vs. Notre Dame," 14 Jan. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Preposition During one possession in the final minute, the Lions threw away the ball just before the shot clock ran down while struggling to handle Southern’s traps. I.c. Murrell, Arkansas Online, "UAPB’s bid to end losing streak goes south quickly against Southern University," 14 Feb. 2021 As part of their friendship-turned-courtship, the two show each other films, many shot before they were born. Helen Shaw, Vulture, "To All The Boys: Always and Forever Burns Low and Slow," 13 Feb. 2021 This may deter teams from becoming sellers before the March 25 deadline. Globe Staff, BostonGlobe.com, "The only thing stopping Kevin Durant is the NBA’s confusing protocol rules," 13 Feb. 2021 The Predators had lost three in a row before beating the Wings. Tyler J. Davis, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Red Wings game vs. Nashville Predators: Time, TV, more info," 13 Feb. 2021 There are team trials races for next season coming up before winter ends in the U.S., but Sunday marks the end of the major international racing slate for the Americans. Tim Reynolds, ajc, "Humphries in contention midway through monobob title race," 13 Feb. 2021 In 2018, after working on ye in Wyoming, Shaw contacted West’s assistants to see the lyrics before production. Jonathan Gharraie, The Atlantic, "Can Caroline Shaw Make Classical Cool?," 13 Feb. 2021 My parents stayed in Thailand for a year before they were transferred to the Galang Refugee Camp in Indonesia. Lisa Tran, Bon Appétit, "Our Restaurant’s Name Means ‘New Beginnings.’ That’s Never Felt More True.," 12 Feb. 2021 And those numbers emerged just two weeks after the state’s attorney general found that numbers released before the end of January were also underreported. Michael Ruiz, Fox News, "Cuomo aide tells NY Democrats administration hid nursing home data to keep it from Trump DOJ: Report," 12 Feb. 2021

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

Adverb or adjective

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Preposition

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

Conjunction

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a(1)

History and Etymology for before

Adverb or adjective

Middle English, adverb & preposition, from Old English beforan, from be- + foran before, from fore

Preposition

Middle English before, beforen, going back to Old English beforan — more at before entry 1

Conjunction

Middle English before, beforen, from before, beforen, before entry 2

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Time Traveler for before

Time Traveler

The first known use of before was before the 12th century

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Statistics for before

Last Updated

18 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Before.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/before. Accessed 25 Feb. 2021.

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More Definitions for before

before

adverb

English Language Learners Definition of before

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: at an earlier time
formal + old-fashioned : to or toward the place where someone is going : in advance

before

preposition

English Language Learners Definition of before (Entry 2 of 3)

: at a time preceding (something or someone) : earlier than (something or someone)
US used to describe a time earlier than a specified hour
: preceding (something or someone) in order or in a series

before

conjunction

English Language Learners Definition of before (Entry 3 of 3)

: earlier than the time that : earlier than when
: until the time that
used to refer to something that might happen

before

adverb
be·​fore | \ bi-ˈfȯr How to pronounce before (audio) \

Kids Definition of before

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : at an earlier time I've been here before.
2 : ahead go on before

before

preposition

Kids Definition of before (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : in front of He stood before a mirror.
2 : earlier than You got there before me.
3 : before in order Your name is listed before mine.
4 : in the presence of She spoke before a crowd.

before

conjunction

Kids Definition of before (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : ahead of the time when Wash before you eat.
2 : sooner or quicker than I'll be done before you know it.
3 : more willingly than I'd starve before I'd steal.
4 : until the time that It wasn't long before he caught on.

before

preposition
be·​fore

Legal Definition of before

1 : in the presence of then personally appeared before me
2 : to be judged or acted on by a case before the court a bill coming up before Congress

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Comments on before

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