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 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 Similarly, New York also passed the same legislation in October 2019, hoping to set a precedent for other states that could enact the same limitations for nursing mothers called in as jurors. Amber C. Snider, refinery29.com, "Every Woman Should Know These U.S. Laws In 2020," 30 Jan. 2020 Billie Eilish and Billy Porter set a precedent for pairing extravagant accessories with their ensembles at the 62nd Grammy Awards on Sunday night at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. Emily J. Sullivan, The Hollywood Reporter, "The Most Extra Accessories at the Grammy Awards," 27 Jan. 2020 The Magnitsky act, enacted by the US government under the Obama administration following the torture, detention and death of Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in 2009, has set a precedent for holding individuals accountable for their criminal actions. David Miliband, Quartz, "Davos is ignoring one of the most devastating humanitarian crises of our time," 23 Jan. 2020 The queen gathered her eldest son and heir, Prince Charles, and his sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, to hash out the arrangement, which could set a precedent for future generations of royals in a more streamlined royal family. Mark Landler, New York Times, "In Statement, Queen ‘Supportive’ of Prince Harry and Meghan’s ‘New Life’," 13 Jan. 2020 Either vote will set a precedent for Congress, for future occupants of the White House and for our republic that will reverberate for decades. The Denver Post Editorial Board, The Denver Post, "Editorial: Buck’s absence from impeachment hearings undermines his opposition," 15 Dec. 2019 Residents feared a sought-for zoning change would set a precedent for further encroachment into the neighborhood by the school. Richard A. Marini, ExpressNews.com, "Monte Vista Home Tour features homes of Trinity University," 12 Nov. 2019 In arguing for the vagueness of the state ethics law, Blakely attorneys Robert Tuten and Marcus Helstowski cite a bevy of legal cases that set a precedent for the indictment to be dropped. Paul Gattis | Pgattis@al.com, al, "Indicted Alabama sheriff files to dismiss state ethics law," 22 Oct. 2019 An investment at $33 billion would set a precedent for further investments. Glenn Peoples, Billboard, "What's a Music Company Worth? Comparing Tencent's UMG Deal to Other Label Investments," 14 Oct. 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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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 29 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for precedent

precedent

noun
How to pronounce precedent (audio)

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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