fore·​run·​ner ˈfȯr-ˌrə-nər How to pronounce forerunner (audio)
: one that precedes and indicates the approach of another: such as
: a premonitory sign or symptom
: a skier who runs the course before the start of a race
Choose the Right Synonym for forerunner

forerunner, precursor, harbinger, herald mean one that goes before or announces the coming of another.

forerunner is applicable to anything that serves as a sign or presage.

the blockade was the forerunner of war

precursor applies to a person or thing paving the way for the success or accomplishment of another.

18th century poets like Burns were precursors of the Romantics

harbinger and herald both apply, chiefly figuratively, to one that proclaims or announces the coming or arrival of a notable event.

their early victory was the harbinger of a winning season
the herald of a new age in medicine

Examples of forerunner in a Sentence

a simple machine that was the forerunner of today's computers I had that strange feeling that's the forerunner of a cold.
Recent Examples on the Web Images of Phaethon 3200 previously measured by NASA's Spitzer space telescope—the infrared forerunner to the James Web Space Telescope—have been reanalyzed by researchers from the University of Helsinki, who compared them to infrared data on meteorites studied in laboratories. Jamie Carter, Forbes, 11 Dec. 2023 In the East, Japan was the forerunner of Western industrialization, but many Japanese now want less of that and more out of life. E. Tammy Kim, The New Yorker, 1 Feb. 2024 Its giant mirror gives it far more sensitivity to the fine features of the universe than its forerunner, the Hubble Space Telescope. Charlie Wood, WIRED, 31 Dec. 2023 Among its many functions, Gemini will underpin Google Bard, which has previously struggled to emerge from the shadow of its chatbot forerunner, OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Andrew Paul, Popular Science, 6 Dec. 2023 The transcripts can be read in the Congressional Globe, a forerunner to the Congressional Record. Steven Portnoy, ABC News, 29 Dec. 2023 Johnson is against, very much against — portraying Napoleon as the forerunner to, and model for, the egomaniacal dictators who blighted and bloodied the 20th century. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 18 Dec. 2023 Jenny Schuetz, a senior fellow at Brookings Metro, cites the California Environmental Quality Act enacted in 1970, a forerunner of Nixon’s creation of the Environmental Protection Agency later that year. Alena Botros, Fortune, 16 Dec. 2023 His 20 albums range from glam rock forerunner (Transformer, produced by David Bowie) to tragic rock opera (Berlin) to instrumental saw blade and dial tone (Metal Machine Music) to sincere pop schmaltz (Set the Twilight Reeling). Jeremy Lybarger, The New Republic, 17 Oct. 2023 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of forerunner was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near forerunner

Cite this Entry

“Forerunner.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


fore·​run·​ner -ˌrən-ər How to pronounce forerunner (audio)
: one going or sent before to give notice of the approach of others : harbinger

More from Merriam-Webster on forerunner

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