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

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. See More
Recent Examples on the Web: Adverb or adjective Driscoll said the state needs to follow the law, which has only been triggered once before in 1987. Samantha J. Gross,, 2 Aug. 2022 On the other hand, have these men never seen this show before? Kristen Baldwin,, 2 Aug. 2022 Weger’s team made a run at DNA testing evidence once before in 2004, but withdrew the motion after the evidence was shown to have been improperly stored and potentially corrupted. Andrea Marks, Rolling Stone, 1 Aug. 2022 Wisconsin had seen mass shootings before, but in the years since the violence has come quicker., 29 July 2022 Some experts think hepatitis cases may have temporarily spiked once Covid restrictions lifted, because young children subsequently got exposed to viruses that their bodies hadn’t seen before. Aria Bendix, NBC News, 29 July 2022 France has only ever reached the semifinals of a major tournament once before — the World Cup in 2011. Tim Bielik, cleveland, 27 July 2022 The Japan Meteorological Agency raised the volcanic alert from level 3 to level 5 — the highest alert level, which has only been seen once before in 2015 for a different volcano, the Japan Times reported. Sammy Westfall, Washington Post, 24 July 2022 Chenoweth has been engaged once before, to actor Marc Kudisch, but the two never married. Jen Juneau,, 19 July 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Preposition Bowers testified on June 21 before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Caroline Linton, CBS News, 3 Aug. 2022 In a video obtained by NBC affiliate WRAL of Raleigh, the plane can be seen appearing to skid off the runway and spin in a partial circle before coming to a stop. Chantal Da Silva, NBC News, 3 Aug. 2022 Potential travelers should take local and national public health directives regarding the pandemic into consideration before planning any trips. Christopher Elliott, Washington Post, 3 Aug. 2022 The National Historic Landmark closed for eight months after Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, before reopening on July 4, 2013. Kerry J. Byrne, Fox News, 3 Aug. 2022 Turkey’s Parliament is on summer break until Oct. 1 and won’t address the question before that, officials have said. Daniel Michaels, WSJ, 3 Aug. 2022 Wisconsin's Republican candidates for governor are in the home stretch before the Aug. 9 primary. Molly Beck, Journal Sentinel, 3 Aug. 2022 That water will be checked for its nutrients levels and then tweaked before being reapplied. Sarah Bowman, The Indianapolis Star, 3 Aug. 2022 And with total earmarks spread across both chambers’ spending bills at roughly $16 billion, before removing some overlapping House-Senate requests, there’s a good chance the final spending bills can accommodate both chambers’ projects. Peter Cohn, Anchorage Daily News, 3 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near before



before bed

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Statistics for before

Last Updated

5 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Before.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for before


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

More from Merriam-Webster on before

Nglish: Translation of before for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of before for Arabic Speakers


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