fore·​bear | \ ˈfȯr-ˌber How to pronounce forebear (audio) \
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

But Jimmie can spiritually claim the city that belongs to his memory, his forebears, his friends. Collier Meyerson, WIRED, "The Last Black Man Searches for ‘Authenticity’ but There Is None," 6 June 2019 Like its forebear Pretty Woman (to which Long Shot is glee-fully indebted), the movie seems specifically engineered to be enjoyed in a theater full of fellow laughing humans. Kimberly Cutter, Marie Claire, "Charlize Theron Is in Control—and Funny as Hell," 1 May 2019 Scott is one of many North American indigenous designers recontextualizing their cultural signposts with the craftsmanship skills their forebears have perfected for centuries. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "How These Shapely Statement Earrings Celebrate Coast Salish Culture," 13 Mar. 2019 On top of that, it's bound to have a show-stopping camera as all of its forebears have also had. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "Watch Google's Pixel 3 Reveal Event Here, Live," 9 Oct. 2018 Millennials appear less interested than their forebears in chain dining experiences. Jason Gay, WSJ, "The Life-Changing Magic of Chicken Wings and Sports Betting," 13 Aug. 2018 Now, with public and private funding flowing into Chinese start-ups, entrepreneurship has become an appealing alternative for a generation disillusioned with the conveyor-belt career paths of their forebears. James Hohmann, Washington Post, "The Daily 202: Trump supporters suffer unintended consequences of his policies," 15 May 2018 Therefore, visiting this delightful village in the Jade Snow Mountain Range whose thirty families preserve the ways of their forebears, grants a fleeting encounter with not only the culture but the living history of the Yi people. Mei Zhang, Town & Country, "How to Plan a Trip to China," 5 Oct. 2016 His Protestant forebears had for generations formed part of the ruling class in pre-Partition Ireland: Leadership was in the Shackletonian DNA. Sara Wheeler, WSJ, "‘The White Darkness’ Review: Coming in From the Cold," 25 Oct. 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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Statistics for forebear

Last Updated

12 Jun 2019

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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

formal : a member of your family in the past


fore·​bear | \ ˈfȯr-ˌber\

Kids Definition of forebear

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More from Merriam-Webster on forebear

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with forebear

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for forebear

Spanish Central: Translation of forebear

Nglish: Translation of forebear for Spanish Speakers

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