precedent

adjective
pre·ce·dent | \pri-ˈsē-dᵊnt, ˈpre-sə-dənt \

Definition of precedent 

(Entry 1 of 2)

: prior in time, order, arrangement, or significance

precedent

noun
prec·e·dent | \ˈpre-sə-dənt \

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

Agreeing with the dissent, however, would not necessarily mean that Kavanaugh would now vote to overturn a long-standing precedent. David G. Savage, latimes.com, "Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh lauded late Chief Justice Rehnquist for dissenting in Roe vs. Wade and supporting school prayer," 11 July 2018 However, Barrett has publicly expressed her willingness to overturn precedent, which some critics believe would extend to Roe v. Wade. Abigail Simon, Time, "What to Know About the Potential Nominees President Trump Has Interviewed for the Supreme Court," 3 July 2018 Another step in that direction was taken Wednesday when the court overruled a 41-year-old precedent that allowed public employee unions to collect fees from non-members. Richard Wolf, USA TODAY, "Supreme Court's conservatives mark return to power with major rulings, minor punts," 27 June 2018 The 5-4 decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair Inc. overturned a decades-old Supreme Court precedent that barred states from collecting sales tax on goods sold online by companies that do not have a physical presence in the state. Paul Takahashi, Houston Chronicle, "Supreme Court’s sales tax ruling upends online shopping," 21 June 2018 Nonetheless, the 90-year-old jurist asserted, his business-friendly colleagues were now transgressing cardinal principles of the judicial process, overturning a recent precedent and insisting the identity of the speaker was irrelevant. Glenn C. Altschuler, San Francisco Chronicle, "‘We the Corporations,’ by Adam Winkler," 28 Mar. 2018 Having the court step in would set a bad precedent, the university said. David Jesse, Detroit Free Press, "Eastern Michigan athletic program under federal investigation," 10 July 2018 The decision could set a dangerous precedent for protecting those who misrepresent and lie about reproductive health care options. Elly Belle, Teen Vogue, "Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Crisis Pregnancy Centers in NIFLA v. Becerra," 26 June 2018 That’s why people working at the FDA need to set a new precedent: keep societal norms separate from science. Ashley Andreou, STAT, "New Gardasil ad campaign gets it (mostly) right. It shouldn’t have taken a decade," 18 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

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

Noun

see precedent entry 1

Adjective

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

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Phrases Related to precedent

break (with) precedent

set a precedent

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

: 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 \

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- \

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 \

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.

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Comments on precedent

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