1 of 2


for·​mer ˈfȯr-mər How to pronounce former (audio)
: coming before in time
She now appears like her former self.
: of, relating to, or occurring in the past
former correspondence
restoring the theater to its former glory
: preceding in place or arrangement : foregoing
the former part of the chapter
: 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
: having been previously : onetime
a former athlete
her former husband


2 of 2


form·​er ˈfȯr-mər How to pronounce former (audio)
: one that forms
chiefly British : a member of a school form
usually used in combination
sixth former
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

Adjective 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
Alex Shanklin, a former J. Crew model, is the lead plaintiff in a class action suit filed against NEXT and Wilhelmina. Tatiana Siegel, Variety, 9 Feb. 2024 Hu Xijin, former editor-in-chief of Global Times, said Messi’s commercial value in China will plummet as companies refrain from associating with the footballer. Alan Wong, Fortune Asia, 9 Feb. 2024 Traditionally, limited partners have been friends of ownership, former players, local celebrities and others who see the investment as more than an alternative asset class for their portfolio. Ira Boudway, Fortune, 9 Feb. 2024 This former Chief led the league in passes defended (23) this season and also recorded five interceptions. Maddie Hartley, Kansas City Star, 9 Feb. 2024 The report’s discussion of the president’s memory and age was repeated throughout the 345-page document, and was quickly seized on by Republicans, including Mr. Biden’s likely opponent in the 2024 election, former President Donald J. Trump. Michael D. Shear, New York Times, 9 Feb. 2024 Another conspiracy theory shared on Weibo singled out Inter Miami’s Cuban-American co-owner Jorge Mas, who is also the chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation, which was linked to hawkish former President Ronald Reagan. Koh Ewe, TIME, 9 Feb. 2024 Speculation is rife that Netanyahu is hoping to use the war to cling on to power until the U.S. presidential election, which could see former president Donald Trump, a closer friend than President Biden, return to office. Ishaan Tharoor, Washington Post, 9 Feb. 2024 The evening, hosted by former *NSYNC member Lance Bass, featured a performance by singer-songwriter VINCINT and a panel discussion moderated by LZ Granderson on how inclusion in sports advances acceptance for LGBTQ people. Kirsten Chuba, The Hollywood Reporter, 9 Feb. 2024
Oakland, another former hotbed for new hotel development, saw just two hotel openings in 2023. George Avalos, The Mercury News, 17 Jan. 2024 The tricky part was figuring out the right concentrations: Too much alcohol dilutes the film formers, too little produces a longer dry time and a more obvious film. Maura Lynch, Allure, 21 Sep. 2023 Most mascaras are emulsions — a base of water and oil, plus pigments to darken, and a blend of starches, fibers, waxes, and film formers to add length and volume. Maura Lynch, Allure, 21 Sep. 2023 The organic, colorful former creates a symbiotic relationship with the rugged, geometric latter to generate contemplative reflection. Elle Decor Editors, ELLE Decor, 11 May 2023 Best Eye Treatment Mary Kay Instant Puffiness Reducer $35 at Mary Kay Credit: Watch in wonder as a trio of sodium silicate, clays, and film formers sends bags packing instantly. Women's Health, 9 May 2023 How did these questions not just arise, but seize the cultural heights, become the day-to-day obsession of all opinion-formers and tastemakers? Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, 29 Mar. 2023 The runs on Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank over the past week⁠—the former’s collapse in part caused by interest rate hikes squeezing its Treasury and mortagage bond investments—may even call for a pause in the Fed’s rate-tightening schedule. Nate Dicamillo, Quartz, 14 Mar. 2023 Now in a recent conversation with Michael Brendan Dougherty Friedersdorf describes the former's baseball newsletter, The Slurve. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 7 Apr. 2013 See More

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

Word History



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

First Known Use


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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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

Dictionary Entries Near former

Cite this Entry

“Former.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition


: coming before in time
: first mentioned or first of two things mentioned or understood
of the two choices the former is better
: having once been
a former big-league ballplayer

More from Merriam-Webster on former

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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