precursor

noun

pre·​cur·​sor pri-ˈkər-sər How to pronounce precursor (audio) ˈprē-ˌkər- How to pronounce precursor (audio)
1
a
: one that precedes and indicates the approach of another
2
: a substance, cell, or cellular component from which another substance, cell, or cellular component is formed
precursory
pri-ˈkərs-rē How to pronounce precursor (audio)
-ˈkər-sə-
adjective

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Precursor Has Latin Roots

With its prefix pre-, meaning "before", a precursor is literally a "forerunner", and in fact forerunner first appeared as the translation of the Latin praecursor. But the two words function a little differently today. A forerunner may simply come before another thing, but a precursor generally paves the way for something. So, for example, the Office of Strategic Services in World War II was the immediate precursor of today's Central Intelligence Agency, while the blues music of the 1930s and 1940s was only one of the precursors of the rock and roll of today.

Choose the Right Synonym for precursor

forerunner, precursor, harbinger, herald mean one that goes before or announces the coming of another.

forerunner is applicable to anything that serves as a sign or presage.

the blockade was the forerunner of war

precursor applies to a person or thing paving the way for the success or accomplishment of another.

18th century poets like Burns were precursors of the Romantics

harbinger and herald both apply, chiefly figuratively, to one that proclaims or announces the coming or arrival of a notable event.

their early victory was the harbinger of a winning season
the herald of a new age in medicine

Examples of precursor in a Sentence

18th-century lyric poets like Robert Burns were precursors of the Romantics a precursor of the modern eggplant
Recent Examples on the Web Jabotinsky, whose version of Zionism was the precursor to Likud, the party of Benjamin Netanyahu, had a more realistic vision. Seyward Darby, Longreads, 14 Feb. 2024 Invented in antebellum New Orleans, this citrusy cocktail with a sugar rim was a precursor to the sidecar. Saveur Editors, Saveur, 14 Feb. 2024 But his appearance wasn't a precursor to him attending the Super Bowl. Janine Henni, Peoplemag, 12 Feb. 2024 His experiments with color and light were ahead of their time, and his sprawling body of work served as a precursor to the Impressionist movement. Julia Binswanger, Smithsonian Magazine, 5 Feb. 2024 Bynum argues that this event is a precursor to understanding the ongoing fights over voting restrictions. Kiara Alfonseca, ABC News, 2 Feb. 2024 The Biden administration said lifting the sanctions was justified because China had shut down some companies exporting fentanyl precursors and closed their bank accounts. Olivia Wang, New York Times, 2 Feb. 2024 His dangerous vaccine conspiracies were a precursor to other claims about the state of media coverage. Makena Kelly, WIRED, 7 Feb. 2024 However, cyber chatbots are just precursors to the impact that foundation models can have on cybersecurity. Sridhar Muppidi, Fortune, 7 Feb. 2024 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'precursor.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Middle English precursoure, from Latin praecursor, from praecurrere to run before, from prae- pre- + currere to run — more at current entry 1

First Known Use

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of precursor was in the 15th century

Dictionary Entries Near precursor

Cite this Entry

“Precursor.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/precursor. Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

precursor

noun
pre·​cur·​sor pri-ˈkər-sər How to pronounce precursor (audio) ˈprē-ˌkər- How to pronounce precursor (audio)
1
2
: a substance or cell from which another substance or cell is formed

Medical Definition

precursor

noun
pre·​cur·​sor pri-ˈkər-sər How to pronounce precursor (audio) ˈprē-ˌ How to pronounce precursor (audio)
1
: one that precedes and indicates the onset of another
angina may be the precursor of a second infarction
2
: a substance, cell, or cellular component from which another substance, cell, or cellular component is formed especially by natural processes

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