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

Many of these pre-World War II dorms were arranged around a quadrangle, much like Cambridge and Oxford, to shut out the bustling city, create a private outdoor space, and hark back to vaunted English forebears. Carla Yanni, Smithsonian, "How College Dorms Evolved to Fit America’s Gender and Racial Politics," 6 Sep. 2019 The first was the introduction of Spurs' infamous 'push and run' style (a forebear of Total Football) under Arthur Rowe, which propelled them to their first ever First Division title a year after promotion., "Sir Alf Ramsey: The Man Behind the 'Wingless Wonders' & England's Sole World Cup Triumph," 17 June 2019 Australian stars like Ken Rosewall and Evonne Goolagong, Barty’s forebears, are prime examples. Kurt Streeter, New York Times, "No Matter How You Slice It, a Stealthy Backhand Still Works," 1 Sep. 2019 French returned to the spotlight, less fusty than our dining forebears remember: lighter, punchier, accompanied by wilder wine lists. Los Angeles Times, "Los Angeles is a fantastic pastry town. Here are four places our critic loves.," 31 Aug. 2019 Yet the way the Hong Kong police have responded to the provocations stands in marked contrast to how their forebears dealt with past violent protests, let alone the way mainland Chinese authorities dealt with the protests in Beijing in 1989. The Economist, "Hong Kong’s reputation is being damaged," 20 Aug. 2019 Here, owner Beth Eggers—whose forebears arrived from Germany in 1859 to farm in the area—produces Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Cabernet Sauvignon on just three acres. Fortune, "New Zealand’s Hottest Destination Is One You’ve Likely Never Heard Of," 18 Aug. 2019 Our caveman forebears chewed on mostly raw, tough meat and vegetables, strengthening their teeth and jaws. Alex Kuczynski, Harper's BAZAAR, "Inside Silicon Valley's Dangerous New Obsession With Fasting," 17 Aug. 2019 Kary Banks Mullis was born Dec. 28, 1944, in Lenoir, N.C., and started life near the Blue Ridge Mountains, where his forebears had roots. Martin Weil,, "Kary Mullis, unconventional Nobel laureate who unlocked DNA research, 74," 12 Aug. 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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Statistics for forebear

Last Updated

18 Sep 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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miscellaneous remnants or debris

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