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

Antonyms: Adjective

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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: Adjective Judge Barrett did not entirely embrace the notion of super-precedent. Jonathan Turley, WSJ, "Amy Coney Barrett Opens Up," 15 Oct. 2020 Many legal scholars question the basis for declaring an ever-wider array of cases to be super-precedent as a way to protect favored rulings. Jonathan Turley, WSJ, "Amy Coney Barrett Opens Up," 15 Oct. 2020 Britain has no clear privacy law, so precedent matters. The Economist, "Prince Harry accuses the press of hounding Meghan as it did Diana," 3 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Chauvin's attorney, Eric Nelson, previously argued in a court filing that the Court of Appeals decision is not yet precedent because of a window of time that allows Noor's attorneys to ask the state Supreme Court to review the ruling. Chao Xiong, Star Tribune, "Court of Appeals will hear arguments to add third-degree murder in George Floyd case," 23 Feb. 2021 There certainly is precedent for doing so — for nullification rather than declaring innocence. Noah Millman, TheWeek, "Trump's acquittal is not foreordained," 12 Feb. 2021 Although there are legitimate arguments on both sides, Belknap is a precedent for the Senate trial of an ex-president, said Erwin Chemerinsky, the law school dean at UC Berkeley. Bob Egelko, SFChronicle.com, "Senate trial of former President Trump depends largely on 145-year-old case," 19 Jan. 2021 There is no precedent, however, for disqualifying a president from future office, and the issue could end up before the Supreme Court. New York Times, "Trump Impeached for Inciting Insurrection," 13 Jan. 2021 While some have questioned impeaching the president so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. Lisa Mascaro And Mary Clare Jalonick, Chron, "Trump on verge of 2nd impeachment after Capitol siege," 13 Jan. 2021 While some have questioned impeaching the president so close to the end of his term, there is precedent. Tim Darnell, ajc, "Now what happens to Donald Trump?," 13 Jan. 2021 Redfield said there is a historical precedent for dozens of ballots if no candidate gets the majority votes needed to lead the chamber. Greg Bishop, Washington Examiner, "Madigan faces ouster as speaker as Illinois House convenes to pick leader," 13 Jan. 2021 SoundCloud is preparing to introduce a new payment system that would allow fans to pay artists directly, multiple sources close to the situation tell Billboard, setting what could be a game-changing precedent for the streaming world. Micah Singleton, Billboard, "SoundCloud to Let Fans Pay Artists Directly: Exclusive," 5 Feb. 2021

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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Time Traveler for precedent

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for precedent

Cite this Entry

“Precedent.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/precedent. Accessed 2 Mar. 2021.

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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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