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 To be fair, Gallup did pick out one bright spot on the home front: younger men are doing more childcare than their forebears. Fortune, "Men like the idea of evolving gender roles, but still don’t do their part at home," 12 Feb. 2020 The Pussycat Dolls offered a more rhythmic, stateside answer to British girl group forebears like the Spice Girls and Girls Aloud. Jason Lipshutz, Billboard, "The 5 Most Anticipated Reunions of 2020," 10 Jan. 2020 But Windfloat Atlantic does owe a debt of gratitude to its floating forebears. Courtney Linder, Popular Mechanics, "The World's Largest Floating Wind Farm Is Already Hard at Work," 9 Jan. 2020 Fortunately, this Niki Caro–directed live-action version looks only distantly related to its forebear, unlike other dull CGI re-creations such as last year’s The Lion King. David Sims, The Atlantic, "25 Movies to Look Forward to in 2020," 7 Jan. 2020 In hip-hop especially, artists frequently incorporate fragments of earlier songs as a kind of wink, or nod to a forebear. Jon Caramanica, New York Times, "It’s Got a Great Beat, and You Can File a Lawsuit to It," 6 Jan. 2020 The revelations are the latest in a series of discoveries of entanglements with the Nazis of the forebears of owners of large German businesses. The Economist, "Roland Berger discovers his father’s dark secret," 24 Oct. 2019 My mother, 87, is a white woman whose forebears were English and Irish immigrants. Kurt Streeter, New York Times, "Richmond Is at a Crossroads. Will Arthur Ashe Boulevard Point the Way?," 21 June 2019 Like Quicken Loans co-founder Dan Gilbert in Detroit, Weston’s fortunes are tied to the revitalization of downtown — more directly so than was the case with most of his civic forebears. Greg Jefferson,, "Jefferson: S.A.’s Frost Tower shakes up the skyline and the old order," 27 Dec. 2019

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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Time Traveler for forebear

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

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Last Updated

20 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Forebear.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for forebear


How to pronounce forebear (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for forebear

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with forebear

Spanish Central: Translation of forebear

Nglish: Translation of forebear for Spanish Speakers

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