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

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

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 Despite a 11-15 season before, there was good reason for Brown to be confident about this year’s team. Joseph Hoyt, Dallas News, "‘It means a lot’: Grand Prairie boys basketball clinches first playoff appearance since 2004," 11 Feb. 2020 The senior split two shots from the stripe moments before, and needed to sink both to push the lead to 3. Seamus Mcavoy,, "Cathedral girls’ basketball holds off St. Mary’s in battle of top-five teams," 10 Feb. 2020 The night before, a panhandler outside the restaurant had gotten angry that nobody was giving him money and threw a patio chair at the restaurant’s front window — as diners sat in the window inside. Heather Knight,, "The Castro’s shame: addiction and mental illness devastate popular neighborhood," 7 Feb. 2020 Researchers have made these observations before, too. Arielle Pardes, Wired, "Americans Are Split On Online Dating—But Swipe More Than Ever," 6 Feb. 2020 What's not as cute: Hannah Ann has never been in love before, which spooks Peter. David Oliver, USA TODAY, "'The Bachelor' recap: Peter eliminates another four contestants – including some surprises," 6 Feb. 2020 Now, Tahani must rebuild the universe from scratch, exactly as before, in Janet's void . Laura Hanrahan, Woman's Day, "Jameela Jamil Says 'Good Place' Character Tahani Will Stay There "Forever and Ever"," 6 Feb. 2020 Ireland is experiencing political upheaval as never before, but the chief driver in this appears to have little to do with the internal politics of the island. K. V. Turley, National Review, "All Change in Ireland," 5 Feb. 2020 Despite the buzz of the night before, so many consecutive nights without rest eventually took their toll. Jim Ayello, Indianapolis Star, "Comeback complete, Victor Oladipo might finally be able to get some sleep," 31 Jan. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Preposition Levy believes it’s only a matter of time before others — including many former cannabis executives — realize the potential of psychedelics and start to look for investors. Bloomberg, The Mercury News, "First pot, then magic mushrooms? Decriminalization is spreading," 18 June 2019 Texas Tech took a 5-3 loss to Michigan before an exciting 5-4 win over Arkansas on Tuesday. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Former Wisconsin prep products and Brewers draft picks are plentiful at the College World Series," 18 June 2019 Photo: Eun-Young Jeong/The Wall Street Journal Tents must be removed by 7 p.m.—two hours earlier than before and an hour before sunset in early summer—and the campers are confined to certain areas in the parks. Eun-young Jeong, WSJ, "Newest Camping Adventure: During the Day and in the City," 18 June 2019 The Padres have 17 games remaining before the break. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Padres notes: Mejia back, has chance to play more; the new Perdomo; Castillo update," 18 June 2019 Stewart appeared before the committee on Tuesday to ask Congress to extend the September 11 Victim Compensation Fund, which covers healthcare for survivors and first responders. Rachel Yang,, "Jon Stewart reunites with Stephen Colbert to call out Mitch McConnell on 9/11 bill," 18 June 2019 The video shows the child walk to another aisle before coming back with a large box containing the doll. Bree Burkitt, azcentral, "Phoenix police release footage of family in dollar store preceding incident seen in viral video," 18 June 2019 Others seem a little shocked that At Home is putting out the decor fourth months before Halloween. Sarah Horne,, "Halloween in June? At Home is rolling out the decorations and people have thoughts," 18 June 2019 The model previously dated indie rocker St. Vincent before the pair split in 2016. Joelle Goldstein,, "Cara Delevingne Confirms Relationship with Ashley Benson as the Pair Mark Their 1-Year Anniversary," 18 June 2019

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


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


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


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


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

14 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Before.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for before


How to pronounce before (audio)

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

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

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


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

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.

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.

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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More from Merriam-Webster on before

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for before

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with before

Spanish Central: Translation of before

Nglish: Translation of before for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of before for Arabic Speakers

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