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

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

With a style that connected the past to present, where the beauty, history, and versatility of braids is being celebrated like never before, Stenberg’s retro-futurist coif sets a new Oscars beauty standard. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "Amandla Stenberg Steps Out With Next-Level Braids at the Oscars," 25 Feb. 2019 The guild awards, usually a road map to the Oscars, have spread their honors around like never before. Jake Coyle, The Seattle Times, "What will win best picture? It’s a maddeningly close race," 20 Feb. 2019 Meanwhile, the new Pershing II could reach Moscow in just eight minutes, a capability the United States didn’t have before. Kyle Mizokami, Popular Mechanics, "As a Key Arms-Control Treaty Is Set to Die, Russia Threatens to Target U.S. with New Nukes," 20 Feb. 2019 Italy is now more interesting than before, but still a very peculiar case. Steff Yotka, Vogue, "Think Streetwear Is a New Phenomenon? Meet Luca Benini Who Started the Hype 30 Years Ago," 11 Jan. 2019 With the right kind of support, survivors can see their lives have more meaning than before. Jim Rendon, Marie Claire, "When Female Veterans Return Home," 29 Oct. 2018 Sacagawea was also a peacemaker when Lewis and Clark encountered Indigenous people who had never seen a white man before. Ruth Hopkins, Teen Vogue, "Sacagawea Changed the Course of History and Deserves Respect," 11 Jan. 2019 In a matter of months, Brooklyn was more engaged, focused, and excited about learning than ever before. Shelley Levitt, Woman's Day, "These 4 Inspirational Women Went to Great Lengths for Their Kids," 4 Dec. 2018 Brands have had some opportunities to use sensors and cameras in and outside of stores for advertising before. Lara O’reilly, WSJ, "Walgreens Tests Digital Cooler Doors With Cameras to Target You With Ads," 11 Jan. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Preposition

Every year on the evening before the Oscars, Chanel and Charles Finch bring together the brightest stars in Hollywood to celebrate the Academy Awards. Cameron Bird, Vogue, "Chanel and Charles Finch Host the 11th Annual Pre-Oscars Dinner," 24 Feb. 2019 Cuarón searched for almost a year before finding her. Katherine J. Igoe, Marie Claire, "What is Alfonso Cuarón's 'Roma' About? The Oscar-Nominated Film Is a Runaway Success," 23 Feb. 2019 While most phones can handle 2x optical zoom before digital algorithms need to take over, 10x optical zoom—where the zoom is hanlded in hardware—is far beyond the capabilities of any handset currently on the market. Michael Simon, PCWorld, "Oppo's phone tech goes futuristic with 5G and a 10X lossless zoom camera," 23 Feb. 2019 William was also a helicopter pilot for the Royal Air Force's Search and Rescue Force nearly five years before that, The Telegraph reports. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Prince William Discusses an Emotional Experience as an Air Ambulance Pilot That Relates to His Kids," 23 Jan. 2019 Many states offer financial assistance for weatherizing your home, so be sure to check with your state’s weatherization agency before making any large investments. Barbara Eldredge, Curbed, "How to save on utility bills," 25 Jan. 2019 According to the site, Liam was seen making out with another girl in early August shortly before the two broke up. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "A Complete Timeline of Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth's Relationship," 27 Dec. 2018 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

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

28 Feb 2019

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
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

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).


of or relating to a parable or parabola

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