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

This would require investment in the already underfunded IRS, yes, but precedent in other parts of the world shows it is possible. Eric Limer, Popular Mechanics, "Politicians and Tax Prep Companies Are Teaming Up to Make Sure Filing Stays an Expensive Nightmare," 9 Apr. 2019 The case, which is likely to go to trial later this year, would challenge long-standing legal precedents that allow universities to consider race in admissions decisions. Charlotte West, Teen Vogue, "What You Need to Know about Race and College Admissions," 27 Sep. 2018 Ligado’s failure would be an unhappy precedent just as multiple new service providers expect to crowd into the nation’s airwaves and need every incentive to play nicely with one another. Holman W. Jenkins, WSJ, "Is Airwave Nimbyism Holding Back 5G?," 7 Dec. 2018 The use of the nuclear option for Supreme Court nominees was dramatic for a body like the Senate, which operates on tradition and precedent. NBC News, "McConnell went 'nuclear' to confirm Gorsuch. But Democrats changed Senate filibuster rules first.," 28 June 2018 The decision isn’t that clear-cut for Persky’s supporters, though, who argue that the recall will set a dangerous precedent. Christina Coleman, Glamour, "The Recall of the Brock Turner Judge Was Considered a Victory for Women—but Not Everyone Agrees," 11 June 2018 But a message, and precedent, is now set: trolls will not be tolerated. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "Kensington Palace Is Taking Action Against Social Media Trolls," 4 Mar. 2019 Photo: Toby's Estate On top of that, the coffee store that aims to be something larger has historical precedent, says Peter Giuliano, the Specialty Coffee Association’s chief research officer. Charles Passy, WSJ, "In New York, Don’t Just Drink Your Coffee—Learn About It First," 23 Feb. 2019 The study also found that other priorities took precedent over their health, and the women didn’t routinely go to their primary care physician to get screened for health issues. Korin Miller, SELF, "Why Anna Kendrick Was 'Vulnerable and Terrified' While Getting Treated for Kidney Stones," 4 Feb. 2019

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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