fore·bear | \ˈfȯr-ˌber \
variants: or less commonly

Definition of forebear 

: ancestor, forefather also : precursor usually used in plural His forebears fought in the American Civil War.

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Did You Know?

Forebear (also sometimes spelled "forbear") was first used by our ancestors in the days of Middle English. Fore- means "coming before," just as in "forefather," and -bear means "one that is" (not to be confused with the "-bear" in the unrelated verb "forbear," which comes from Old English beran, meaning "to bear or carry"). The "be-" of "-bear" is from the verb "to be" (or, more specifically, from "been," an old dialect variant of "be"). The "-ar" is a form of the suffix -er, which we append to verbs to denote one that performs a specified action. In this case the "action" is simply existing or being - in other words, "-bear" implies one who is a "be-er."

Examples of forebear in a Sentence

His forebears fought in the American Civil War. his forebears came to America on the Mayflower

Recent Examples on the Web

Other than providing the opportunity for some boisterous and bravura acting, this creates the notion of the forebears haunting the villains that lead their company to ruin. Demetrios Matheou, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Lehman Trilogy': Theater Review," 13 July 2018 He was cited as a major forebear of Abstract Expressionism. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "The Vulnerable Ferocity of Chaim Soutine," 7 May 2018 Any children fathered by our hybrid creature would be genetically mine; my parents would be the genetic forebears. Paul Root Wolpe, Vox, "A human head transplant would be reckless and ghastly. It’s time to talk about it.," 2 Apr. 2018 DJ Toddy Tee, Ice-T, Eazy-E and his N.W.A crew were some of the genre’s forebears. Los Angeles Times Staff,, "Hip-hop's game-changing moments," 26 Jan. 2018 Jones, like so many of her performance artist forebears, hit the road in her time of trouble. Whitney Robinson, Town & Country, "She's comedy's new It Girl—all over again.," 19 Sep. 2016 Since taking power in 2011 after the death of his father, Kim has proved himself to be as ruthless as his forebears. David Nakamura,, "Once forceful on North Korean human rights abuses, Trump is mostly mum during summit with Kim," 12 June 2018 When DevilDriver decided to embrace its insurgent country forebears for its upcoming Outlaws 'Til The End: Vol. Gary Graff, Billboard, "DevilDriver Taps John Carter Cash & Randy Blythe for 'Ghost Riders In The Sky' Cover: Video Premiere," 8 June 2018 This annual series focuses on the best of recent Italian moviemaking, but the lineup also pays tribute to forebears, like the brothers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. Ben Kenigsberg, New York Times, "3 Film Series to Catch in N.Y.C. This Weekend," 31 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'forebear.' 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 forebear

15th century, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for forebear

Middle English (Scots), from fore- + -bear (from been to be)

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Last Updated

18 Sep 2018

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Time Traveler for forebear

The first known use of forebear was in the 15th century

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English Language Learners Definition of forebear

: a member of your family in the past


fore·bear | \ˈfȯr-ˌber\

Kids Definition of forebear

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Comments on forebear

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


a state of commotion or excitement

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