pre·​ce·​dence | \ ˈpre-sə-dən(t)s How to pronounce precedence (audio) , pri-ˈsē-dᵊn(t)s How to pronounce precedence (audio) \

Definition of precedence

1a : priority of importance your safety takes precedence
b : the right to superior honor on a ceremonial or formal occasion
c : the order of ceremonial or formal preference
2a : the fact of coming or occurring earlier in time
b obsolete : antecedent

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Synonyms for precedence


priority, right-of-way

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Examples of precedence in a Sentence

Americans, Adams now believed, were as driven by the passions for wealth and precedence as any people in history. Ambition, avarice, and resentment, not virtue and benevolence, were the stuff of American society. — Gordon S. Wood, Revolutionary Characters, 2006 So, too, did most accept that all economies are characterized by struggles for power and precedence among men and institutions run by men; in other words, that all economies are fundamentally political in nature. — Barry C. Lynn, Harper's, July 2006 Jefferson abolished precedence and placement at White House dinners to emphasize that all guests were equal, but his system—he called it "pell-mell"—was abandoned, and we have guests of honor and use place cards today. — Naomi Bliven, New York Times Book Review, 12 Sept. 1999 his merchandise order takes precedence because we received it first
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Recent Examples on the Web

But far simpler things took precedence in her first hours in Manhattan. Washington Post, "Teen activist sails across Atlantic to go to climate meeting," 28 Aug. 2019 Ambition can be a harsh taskmaster and might take precedence in late October and early November, when hard work and attention to responsibilities is a necessity. Tribune Content Agency,, "Horoscope for Aug. 8, 2019: Leo, love conquers all; Scorpio, focus on home and family," 8 Aug. 2019 Congress now heads into the August recess, and the time is fast approaching when Democrats are likely to conclude that defeating Trump in the 2020 election takes precedence, and is more feasible, than impeaching him before then. Susan Page, USA TODAY, "From impeachment to indictment: 5 repercussions from Robert Mueller's testimony," 25 July 2019 Previously, when teams had finished level on points, goal difference had been used to decide who takes the higher position, with goals scored taking precedence if the former was level., "Premier League Introduce Game-Changing 'Head-to-Head' Rule for 2019/20 Season," 15 July 2019 There is no reason, then, why British sovereignty should not have taken precedence yesterday. Sahil Handa, National Review, "Boris Johnson Failed to Defend Britain’s Ambassador — and British Sovereignty," 11 July 2019 About what should take precedence — public safety or the bottom line. Neil Swidey,, "We’re afraid of sharks. But maybe we’re not afraid enough.," 9 July 2019 Later in the season, the Wave League championship took precedence. Andrew Turner,, "Daily Pilot Girls’ Basketball Dream Team: Katie Nguyen led resurgence for Marina," 14 June 2019 For both the campaign contributions and the dividends, Alsup wants to know why the expenditures took precedence over trimming hazardous trees or managing vegetation that posed a fire threat. Bloomberg,, "PG&E must respond to news report about faulty power lines, judge orders," 10 July 2019

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

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2b

History and Etymology for precedence

see precede

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Statistics for precedence

Last Updated

13 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for precedence

The first known use of precedence was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for precedence



English Language Learners Definition of precedence

somewhat formal : the condition of being more important than something or someone else and therefore coming or being dealt with first

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Comments on precedence

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


formidable, illustrious, or eminent

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