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

Keep scrolling for more

Synonyms for former

Synonyms: Adjective

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

Visit the Thesaurus for More 

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

Among the witnesses set to testify are current and former officials from the PCAOB and the Securities and Exchange Commission, which oversees the PCAOB. Michael Rapoport, WSJ, "KPMG Ex-Partner Goes on Trial in ‘Steal the Exam’ Scandal," 11 Feb. 2019 Friends and former co-workers raised concerns about how the negativity might be affecting her pregnancy, meanwhile Markle has remained quiet and just endured the lies and never-ending rumor-mill. Chrissy Rutherford, Harper's BAZAAR, "Meghan Markle Channeled Carolyn Bessette in This Classic Look," 7 Feb. 2019 Here, that meant stripping back a 1980s refurbishment to restore the structure to its former glory. Jennifer Fernandez, House Beautiful, "This Montreal Couple Designed a Whole House Around the Art," 6 Feb. 2019 Rumors are circulating that the former boy bander is currently involved with Korean-American model Kiko Mizuhara. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "Who is Harry Styles’s Rumored Girlfriend Kiko Mizuhara?," 5 Feb. 2019 According to Sports Illustrated, he is now tied with former Niners and Cowboys defensive end Charles Haley for the most wins in any position. Megan Stein, Country Living, "How Many Super Bowls Has Tom Brady Won?," 3 Feb. 2019 In at least 54 percent of the mass shootings between 2009 and 2017, the perpetrator also shot a current or former intimate partner or family member. Shannon Watts, Vogue, "Toxic Masculinity Is Killing Us," 31 Jan. 2019 For the last few years, former chief executive Brian Krzanich’s keynotes at the Consumer Electronics Show were a circus of drones and sensors. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Intel makes Bob Swan its permanent CEO, maintaining a slow, steady course away from the PC," 31 Jan. 2019 Headed by former secretary of state William Rogers, the Rogers Commission included Neil Armstrong, Sally Ride, Chuck Yeager, Nobel Prize– winning physicist Richard Feynman, and other experts in aeronautics, aviation, and disaster analysis. Margaret Lazarus Dean, Popular Mechanics, "The Oral History of the Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster," 28 Jan. 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

That’s because studies showing a link between digital technology and depression don’t necessarily prove that the former caused the latter. Jessica Wapner, SELF, "How Worried Do You Really Need to Be About Your Screen Time?," 7 Feb. 2019 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

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about former

Statistics for former

Last Updated

14 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for former

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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).


to deny responsibility for

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

What did you just call me?! A Quiz

  • rows-of-various-emoji
  • If a member of the audience describes your speech as bombastic, does that person mean it is:
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!