precedent

adjective
pre·​ce·​dent | \ pri-ˈsē-dᵊnt How to pronounce precedent (audio) , ˈpre-sə-dənt How to pronounce precedent (audio) \

Definition of precedent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: prior in time, order, arrangement, or significance

precedent

noun
prec·​e·​dent | \ ˈpre-sə-dənt How to pronounce precedent (audio) \

Definition of precedent (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : an earlier occurrence of something similar
2a : something done or said that may serve as an example or rule to authorize or justify a subsequent act of the same or an analogous kind a verdict that had no precedent
b : the convention established by such a precedent or by long practice
3 : a person or thing that serves as a model

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Synonyms & Antonyms for precedent

Synonyms: Adjective

antecedent, anterior, foregoing, former, preceding, previous, prior

Antonyms: Adjective

after, ensuing, following, later, posterior, subsequent, succeeding

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Precedent and the Supreme Court

Noun

A precedent is something that precedes, or comes before. The Supreme Court relies on precedents—that is, earlier laws or decisions that provide some example or rule to guide them in the case they're actually deciding. When hostages are being held for ransom, a government may worry about setting a bad precedent if it gives in. And a company might "break with precedent" by naming a foreigner as its president for the first time.

Examples of precedent in a Sentence

Adjective

behavior that may be explained by a precedent event in her troubled life

Noun

Suddenly, against all historical precedent just for that week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would have morphed into a well-organized and dependable outfit. — John McWhorter, National Review, 26 Sept. 2005 On July 12, in an action that seems to have been without precedent, the House voted, 355-0, to condemn a scientific article. — Jonathan Rauch, National Journal, 7 Aug. 1999 In cases close-run enough to require the Supreme court to decide them, precedent and principle are elastic enough, or complex enough, that justices can often decide either way without brazenly contradicting themselves. — Henry Louis Gates, Jr., New Republic, 20 & 27 Sept. 1993 We begin to appreciate the mystery when we realize that the act of naming, or denotation, is generically without precedent in natural history. — Walker Percy, "Naming And Being," 1960, in Signposts in a Strange Land1991 The judge's ruling was based on a precedent established by an earlier decision. He says that the government will set a dangerous precedent if it refuses to allow the protesters to hold a rally. The judge's ruling was based on legal precedent.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

The city of San Diego and the Timken Museum of Art are set to execute a 20-year lease agreement that will have the institution pay rent for the first time in history, and set a precedent for all nonprofit leases in Balboa Park. Jennifer Van Grove, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Timken Museum lease agreement sets precedent for Balboa Park institutions," 4 June 2019 The milestone set a new precedent for high-altitude, solar aircraft. Sam Blum, Popular Mechanics, "New Gargantuan Internet-Beaming Drone Aims to Succeed Where All Others Have Failed," 7 Mar. 2019 Nicole Maines made history as the plaintiff in Doe v. Clenchy, the Maine Supreme Court case that helped set a landmark precedent for allowing transgender people to use the bathroom that matched their gender identity. Julyssa Lopez, Glamour, "Actress and Activist Nicole Maines Will Be TV's First Transgender Superhero," 22 July 2018 This administration is really responsible for setting the rules and setting the precedent for some of the ways this new law was going to be implemented. Eli Rosenberg, chicagotribune.com, "Asbestos sold by Russian company is branded with Trump's face," 11 July 2018 Staten Island has been chosen as the testing site for the purge experiment that would eventually set the precedent for the national event in the years to come. refinery29.com, "Why People Either Really Love Or Hate The Purge Movies," 3 July 2018 Jordan Bell has set a strong precedent for defensive-minded bigs coming out of this program. Jeremy Woo, SI.com, "2019 NBA Draft Big Board: Top 60 Prospects," 27 June 2018 Prosecutors should be cautious of setting a precedent that would put a halt to all future research and development of automated cars. Bree Burkitt, azcentral, "Self-driving Uber fatal crash: Experts say prosecution would be precedent setting," 22 June 2018 Many would argue that BigBang's T.O.P and G-Dragon helped set this precedent. Devon Abelman, Allure, "Why It's Such a Big Deal When a K-Pop Star Dyes Their Hair," 21 June 2018

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

Adjective

15th century, in the meaning defined above

Noun

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for precedent

Adjective and Noun

Middle English, from Anglo-French, from Latin praecedent-, praecedens, present participle of praecedere — see precede

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Statistics for precedent

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Time Traveler for precedent

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

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More Definitions for precedent

precedent

noun

English Language Learners Definition of precedent

somewhat formal
: a similar action or event that happened at an earlier time
: something done or said that can be used as an example or rule to be followed in the future
: the usual or traditional way of doing something

precedent

noun
pre·​ce·​dent | \ ˈpre-sə-dənt How to pronounce precedent (audio) \

Kids Definition of precedent

: something that can be used as a rule or example to be followed in the future

precedent

adjective
pre·​ce·​dent | \ pri-ˈsēd-ᵊnt, ˈpre-səd- How to pronounce precedent (audio) \

Legal Definition of precedent

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: prior in time, order, arrangement, or significance — see also condition precedent at condition — compare subsequent

precedent

noun
prec·​e·​dent | \ ˈpre-səd-ᵊnt How to pronounce precedent (audio) \

Legal Definition of precedent (Entry 2 of 2)

: a judicial decision that should be followed by a judge when deciding a later similar case — see also stare decisis — compare dictum

Note: To serve as precedent for a pending case, a prior decision must have a similar question of law and factual situation. If the precedent is from the same or a superior jurisdiction (as the state's supreme court), it is binding upon the court and must be followed; if the precedent is from another jurisdiction (as another state's supreme court), it is considered only persuasive. Precedents may be overruled especially by the same court that originally rendered the decision.

History and Etymology for precedent

Adjective

Middle French, from Latin praecedent- praecedens, present participle of praecedere to go ahead of, come before

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Comments on precedent

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