before

1 of 3

adverb or adjective

be·​fore bi-ˈfȯr How to pronounce before (audio)
bē-
1
: in advance : ahead
marching on before
2
: at an earlier time
the night before
knew her before

before

2 of 3

preposition

1
a(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

3 of 3

conjunction

1
a(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 sleepRobert 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

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
The equation for success, at this point, was: being close to the action, fast response, a willingness to place some big, daring, bets on doing what had not been done before, and the air-cover, if not active sponsorship, of the executive at the very top of the organization. Bill Fischer, Forbes, 18 Feb. 2024 The chance for rain is even greater Sunday, leaving officials the option of trying to wait out the weather until Sunday night or postponing the race until Monday, something that has been done twice before. John Cherwa, Los Angeles Times, 17 Feb. 2024 The quote is a famous line from Frank Sinatra that the Law & Order star has shared on his socials before. Kelly Wynne, Peoplemag, 16 Feb. 2024 Seconds before, fans were cheering and chanting in unison. Sarah Ritter, Kansas City Star, 16 Feb. 2024 Its total revenue jumped 20% from a year before, more than forecast. Stan Choe, Fortune, 16 Feb. 2024 The tracks are evaluated daily and inspected before and after each freight train passes. Phil Diehl, San Diego Union-Tribune, 16 Feb. 2024 Is there a danger with that generation dying out, that the memories of the time before will be forgotten? Scott Roxborough, The Hollywood Reporter, 16 Feb. 2024 Potato chip prices in December 2023 were 5% higher than the year before. Chris Morris, Fortune, 6 Feb. 2024
Preposition
Yet there is no good reason why the superpowers of our time, like their predecessors in the 1950s and 1960s, should endure 20 years of brinkmanship before having the détente phase of their cold war. Niall Ferguson, Foreign Affairs, 20 Feb. 2024 McConnell monitoring station, rapidly rising flows are expected to push river levels from the 32 feet posted at 8 a.m. to more than 40 feet by the same time Tuesday — a foot and a half above its monitor stage, but well below flood thresholds before falling Wednesday morning. Savanna Smith, Sacramento Bee, 19 Feb. 2024 Just a few steps past the Uncorked Wine Bar, this polished hall is a top spot for Scandinavian-style drinking and dining before setting off on your next adventure. Jared Ranahan, Travel + Leisure, 19 Feb. 2024 Jenner started her morning by having coffee in bed before brushing her teeth and heading to the gym to workout. Becca Longmire, Peoplemag, 19 Feb. 2024 The performer, who portrayed Tim Allen's eldest son, Brad Taylor, on Home Improvement, was previously arrested in 2020 for assault against his ex-girlfriend, Johnnie Faye Cartwright, before pleading guilty to misdemeanors for menacing and assault. Joey Nolfi, EW.com, 19 Feb. 2024 Comparison: States such as Texas require candidates to demonstrate state residency or have a nexus to the state, such as employment, before applying for the exam. Bryce Welker, Miami Herald, 19 Feb. 2024 The Nets went 43-32 before getting swept in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. Gary Bedore, Kansas City Star, 19 Feb. 2024 After graduating college in the late Seventies, Nixon briefly moved to London to try to make it in the punk scene, before returning to the States and settling in Denver. Jon Blistein, Rolling Stone, 8 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'before.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

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)

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

Dictionary Entries Near before

Cite this Entry

“Before.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/before. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

before

1 of 3 adverb
be·​fore bi-ˈfō(ə)r How to pronounce before (audio)
-ˈfȯ(ə)r
1
: in advance : ahead
go on before
2
: at an earlier time
was here before

before

2 of 3 preposition
1
a
: forward of : in front of
stood before a mirror
b
: in the presence of
spoke before the legislature
2
: under the consideration of
the case before the court
3
: earlier than
got there before me
come before six

before

3 of 3 conjunction
1
: earlier than the time when
think before you speak
2
: more willingly than
I'd starve before I'd steal

Legal Definition

before

preposition
be·​fore
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

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