be·fore | \bi-ˈfȯr, 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

ahead, already, beforehand, earlier, formerly, preliminarily, previously

Synonyms: Preposition

ahead of, ere, of, previous to, prior to, to

Antonyms: Adverb or adjective

after, afterward (or afterwards), later

Antonyms: Preposition

after, following

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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

As a result, many homes have kept their rating even though their payroll records showed lower staffing than before. Jordan Rau, Washington Post, "‘Like A Ghost Town’: Erratic Nursing Home Staffing Revealed Through New Records," 13 July 2018 As a result, many homes have kept their rating even though their payroll records showed lower staffing than before. Jordan Rau, Washington Post, "‘Like A Ghost Town’: Erratic Nursing Home Staffing Revealed Through New Records," 13 July 2018 In fact, there’s more attention on the daughter of the Curb Your Enthusiasm star Larry David than ever before. Kathryn Lindsay, refinery29.com, "Why Be Engaged When You Can Be An Ex?," 13 July 2018 Buy Photo Poke bowls, the Hawaiian dish of raw fish and veggies over rice, are booming more than ever before in Philadelphia. Allison Steele, Philly.com, "Vegan 'poke' bowls with mango and beets," 12 July 2018 As a result, many homes have kept their rating even though their payroll records showed lower staffing than before. Jordan Rau, sandiegouniontribune.com, "‘It’s almost like a ghost town.’ Most nursing homes overstated staffing for years," 11 July 2018 In an interview with In Style, Gwen admits that her look is more feminine than ever before. Sofia Mele, Billboard, "A Timeline of Gwen Stefani & Blake Shelton's Relationship," 11 July 2018 And during Pride Month in June, more rainbow flags than ever before popped up on balconies and apartment doors around the campus. Tara Bahrampour, chicagotribune.com, "Retirement communities turn their sights on a once-invisible group: LGBT seniors," 11 July 2018 The Air Force is devoting more of its money and intellectual capital to space today than ever before. Tom Vanden Brook, USA TODAY, "Jim Mattis once wanted to rocket Marines into space, foreshadowing Trump's Space Force," 11 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Preposition

Interior Department staffers also pushed back on efforts by political appointees to put federal land up for auction before scientific assessments on the potential damage drilling could inflict on wildlife were finished. Zack Colman, Scientific American, "A Trump Oil Boom Could Transform This Rocky Mountain Landscape," 13 July 2018 This isn’t the first time Strzok has appeared before Congress about these issues, though. Alex Ward, Vox, "How to watch FBI agent Peter Strzok’s testimony in front of Congress," 12 July 2018 The victim and other members of the church confronted Kenyon and he was removed from the church before his arrest, according to deputies. Howard Cohen, miamiherald, "She felt skin against her leg. The pastor had his cell phone pointed up her dress, cops say," 13 July 2018 The two sides began brawling in the streets before the rally got underway, throwing punches, unleashing chemical sprays and setting off smoke bombs. Washington Post, "Lawsuit resolution could thwart Charlottesville violence," 12 July 2018 He and his Xavier staff recruited Hurt two years ago before Hurt's recruitment took off. Jeff Greer, The Courier-Journal, "He has local ties, but U of L faces tough competition for Matthew Hurt," 14 July 2018 In 2013, Thousands of demonstrators across the country protested a Florida jury’s decision the day before to clear George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. BostonGlobe.com, "This day in history," 14 July 2018 Although imaging did not reveal any structural damage, the Padres had slow-played his path back to the rotation as Lyles had never reported any issue with his throwing arm before he was scratched from his June 24 start. Jeff Sanders, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Padres' Jordan Lyles 'sharp' in sim game as he nears return," 14 July 2018 Dalton Schoen stepped up to become a big play producer before an injury cut short his season, registering the team’s longest touchdown play of the season (82 yards against Texas). Matt Murschel, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Steady Kansas State is No. 44 in 2018 preseason college football rankings," 14 July 2018

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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Statistics for before

Last Updated

10 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for before

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

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More Definitions for before

before

adverb

English Language Learners Definition of before

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: at an earlier time

: 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)

—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 \

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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