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



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

afore [chiefly dialect], ahead, already, antecedently, anteriorly, beforehand, earlier, formerly, preliminarily, previously

Synonyms: Preposition

afore [chiefly dialect], ahead of, ere, fore (also 'fore) [chiefly dialect], 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


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.


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

Only Hemant, a soft-spoken anesthesiologist from India, had done a Nomadic Road drive before. Paul Brady, Condé Nast Traveler, "Want Serious Bragging Rights? Do a Road Trip Across Borneo," 16 Nov. 2018 Aspen trees, which typically regenerate from asexual root suckering, began to regrow as seedlings — something researchers had never seen in that area before. Kristen Pope, Discover Magazine, "Wildfire Engulfed Yellowstone 30 Years Ago. Its Recovery Could Predict The Future of the West," 12 Nov. 2018 The Battle Rounds on this season of The Voice have been more dramatic than ever before, and viewers have had a lot to say. Kelly O'sullivan, Country Living, "'The Voice' Battles: Did You Notice the Chemistry Between Kameron Marlowe and Kayley Hill?," 28 Oct. 2018 Starting in 2020, SDSS-V will use mini robots to aim optical cables at the sky, charting our cosmic metropolis faster than ever before. Eric Betz, Discover Magazine, "A Heavenly Disk To Map The Universe," 13 Aug. 2018 Meunier's goal matched a World Cup record for Belgium by having 10 different players score in a tournament, something only done before by France in 1982 and Italy in 2006. James Ellingworth,, "Belgium win 3rd place with victory over England," 14 July 2018 Doyle and Belcastro have never played before and only met for the first time Wednesday. Christopher Hanna,, "Doyle, Belcastro To Meet In Junior Amateur Final," 11 July 2018 Instead, issue a policy that says personal phone use needs to be limited to before and after the work day or at lunch time except for emergencies or an occasional call. Anchorage Daily News, "My employee is constantly on her cellphone at work. How can I rein her in without looking unfair?," 9 July 2018 And those who've shopped a sale like this one before know: To score the best products, time is of the essence. Glamour, "Nordstrom Anniversary Sale 2018: Best Early Access Fashion Buys," 12 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Preposition

Lordstown and the surrounding Mahoning Valley in northeast Ohio has been through tough situations before. Patrick Sisson, Curbed, "When towns lose a factory, what comes next?," 29 Nov. 2018 Russia must provide computer data from the lab before Dec. 31 or risk having its national anti-doping agency suspended again, two months after its controversial reinstatement. James Ellingworth, The Seattle Times, "WADA visits Moscow lab seeking key doping data," 28 Nov. 2018 The overall favorites should be tested again in Roubaix, before heading down to the Alps next week. New York Times, "Longest Stage of the Tour de France Is Actually a Chance to Relax," 13 July 2018 The Illinois Department of Public Health said 90 people have been sickened by cyclosporiasis, and that a quarter of them reported eating salads from McDonald’s before becoming ill. Jesse Newman, WSJ, "McDonald’s Pulls Salads From 3,000 Restaurants Amid Cyclospora Illnesses," 13 July 2018 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

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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Statistics for before

Last Updated

5 Dec 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



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



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



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 \

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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with before

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for before

Spanish Central: Translation of before

Nglish: Translation of before for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of before for Arabic Speakers

Comments on before

What made you want to look up before? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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