for·​mer | \ ˈfȯr-mər \

Definition of former

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1a : coming before in time She now appears like her former self.
b : of, relating to, or occurring in the past former correspondence restoring the theater to its former glory
2 : preceding in place or arrangement : foregoing the former part of the chapter
3 : first in order of two or more things cited or understood of the two given, the former spelling is more common of the two spellings, the former is more common
4 : having been previously : onetime a former athlete her former husband


form·​er | \ ˈfȯr-mər \

Definition of former (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : one that forms
2 chiefly British : a member of a school form usually used in combination sixth former

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Synonyms for former

Synonyms: Adjective

erstwhile, late, old, once, onetime, other, past, quondam, sometime, whilom

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Choose the Right Synonym for former


preceding, antecedent, foregoing, previous, prior, former, anterior mean being before. preceding usually implies being immediately before in time or in place. the preceding sentence antecedent applies to order in time and may suggest a causal relation. conditions antecedent to the revolution foregoing applies chiefly to statements. the foregoing remarks previous and prior imply existing or occurring earlier, but prior often adds an implication of greater importance. a child from a previous marriage a prior obligation former implies always a definite comparison or contrast with something that is latter. the former name of the company anterior applies to position before or ahead of usually in space, sometimes in time or order. the anterior lobe of the brain

Examples of former in a Sentence


the coach is a former professional baseball player the former manual had some errors, but the current version has its own problems

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

Oberoi's two Nile cruisers, the Philae and the Zahra (the former just got a complete revamp) are also chic 5-7 night experiences, and alternatives to navigating the hotel scene in Cairo. Carrie Goldberg, Harper's BAZAAR, "The 19 Best Places to Travel in 2019," 10 Jan. 2019 The outgoing lighthouse keepers are Jillian Meeker and Che Rogers—the former a skilled cook, the latter a talented boatman who’s sailed the world over. Maude Campbell, Popular Mechanics, "Need a Fresh Start in 2019? California Has an Opening for a Lighthouse Keeper," 8 Jan. 2019 The former played up a blue sequined body suit with a buzz cut colored a coordinated azure, while the latter had lengths styled to swing interminably, regardless of her chosen pose. Calin Van Paris, Vogue, "The Best Beauty Instagrams of the Week: Candice Swanepoel, Samile Bermannelli, and More Strike a Pose," 6 Jan. 2019 The former is a historic harbor district dotted with small galleries, cute coffeehouses, gritty street art, and hip boutiques. Ashlea Halpern, Condé Nast Traveler, "Three Days In Istanbul," 28 Dec. 2018 After hiring former PayPal president David Marcus to run its Messenger app in 2014, Facebook has been expected to make a move in financial services. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: Wealth managers and charities are looking forward to an IPO-rich 2019," 21 Dec. 2018 The former was a straightforward offer of support to struggling gay, lesbian, or transgender teens. Adi Robertson, The Verge, "Russian election meddlers started an anti-masturbation hotline, report claims," 17 Dec. 2018 Voyager 1 experienced the latter transition but not the former. John Timmer, Ars Technica, "The Sun in its rearview mirror, Voyager 2 is in interstellar space," 11 Dec. 2018 In her new book, Becoming, and in a clip for an upcoming ABC special released on Good Morning America today, the former First Lady discussed going through a miscarriage and in vitro fertilization (IVF) before conceiving her daughters. Sarah Jacoby, SELF, "Michelle Obama Conceived Sasha and Malia Using IVF After a Previous Miscarriage," 9 Nov. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Both versions of the story pits Fox News against one of its formers stars. Jen Kirby, Vox, "Kimberly Guilfoyle allegedly left Fox News amid accusations of sexual misconduct," 27 July 2018 The former opened right in the village in 1993 and doesn’t require reservations for tastings; ideal for spontaneity. Elizabeth Wellington, Vogue, "This French Island Is the Nantucket of the Mediterranean," 16 Aug. 2018 Neolithic structures in the area, like the Carreg Coetan Arthur, bare a similarity to Stonehenge, although lacking in the former's complexity. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "The People Who Built Stonehenge Came From Wales," 3 Aug. 2018 How does the de-radicalization process introduce an alternative masculinity to formers? Sarah Jones, The New Republic, "Can White Supremacists Unlearn Hate?," 13 Apr. 2018 Kim and Cohen met while the former was an associate creative director at Vice; Cohen served as a casting director on one of Kim’s projects. Rachel Hahn, Vogue, "A New Invite-Only Chinatown Dinner Party For Musicians Aims to Bring Back New York When It Used to Be Cool," 18 June 2018 The former are based on audited school district spending and enrollment figures; the latter are estimates based on a survey of state education departments. Betsy Hammond,, "Oregon teacher salaries average $62K, above U.S. average," 25 Apr. 2018 His nonprofit takes a more compassionate approach than many other groups and governments, encouraging formers to share their stories and expand their social circles. Carla Power,, "'We have four generations of former terrorists here today': Rehabilitating extremists in Indonesia," 20 Apr. 2018 Though the events' previous venue, Lucky Strike Houston, is significantly closer to the home team's home base, Minute Maid Park, the latter boasts 14 bowling lanes to the former's 39. Amber Elliott, Houston Chronicle, "George Springer's fourth annual All-Star Bowling Benefit raises record $250K for youth who stutter," 10 July 2018

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


12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for former


Middle English, from forme first, from Old English forma — more at foremost

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Statistics for former

Last Updated

17 Jan 2019

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Time Traveler for former

The first known use of former was in the 12th century

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More Definitions for former



English Language Learners Definition of former

—used to say what someone or something was in the past

: existing in the past


for·​mer | \ ˈfȯr-mər \

Kids Definition of former

: coming before in time a former president

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More from Merriam-Webster on former

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with former

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for former

Spanish Central: Translation of former

Nglish: Translation of former for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of former for Arabic Speakers

Comments on former

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


a complex dispute or argument

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