pre·​cur·​sor | \ pri-ˈkər-sər How to pronounce precursor (audio) , ˈprē-ˌkər- How to pronounce precursor (audio) \

Definition of precursor

1a : 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

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Other Words from precursor

precursory \ pri-​ˈkərs-​rē How to pronounce precursory (audio) , -​ˈkər-​sə-​ \ adjective

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

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.

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

The contest was being held on Taco Tuesday as a precursor to Saturday’s ninth annual Taco Truck Throwdown at the stadium. Hannah Frystaff Writer, Los Angeles Times, "After fan’s death, Fresno Grizzlies cancel championship taco-eating contest," 15 Aug. 2019 The pop-up doubles as a precursor to Common Grounds, a twist on a food hall coming to the neighboring space at 3200 Telegraph Ave. Janelle Bitker,, "Kono Food Alley opens in Oakland, with a new food hall on the way," 6 Aug. 2019 In the past, staying in Ann Arbor over the summer to work with Sanderson often served as a precursor to future success. Orion Sang, Detroit Free Press, "How Michigan basketball's sophomore class is working to make an impact next year," 23 July 2019 Research on people who’ve joined hate groups often points to childhood trauma as a precursor: broken homes, neglect, abuse, substance use, early loss. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Understanding the psychology of hate," 22 July 2019 Many people see owner Stu Sternberg’s proposal to share the Rays with Montreal as a precursor to leaving Tampa Bay altogether. John Romano,, "The Montreal perspective on the Rays’ split-season proposal," 14 July 2019 With this in mind, an essence can work well as a standalone step or as a precursor to a serum in your routine. Sara Coughlin, SELF, "What’s the Actual Deal With Skin Toners and Essences?," 9 July 2019 In orthodoxy and all the textbooks, the RNA World—that’s kind of the precursor to the DNA world—was here on Earth four billion years ago. Isaac Chotiner, The New Yorker, "What If Life Did Not Originate on Earth?," 8 July 2019 The prevailing teams at the time were state-owned - CSKA Moscow, established in 1911, was the official team of the Soviet Army, Dynamo Moscow was affiliated with the MVD (ministry of internal affairs) and the precursor to the KGB., "Viktor Maslov: Soviet Pioneer of the 4-4-2 Formation & the Inventor of Pressing," 28 June 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'precursor.' 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 precursor

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

History and Etymology for precursor

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

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Statistics for precursor

Last Updated

18 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for precursor

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

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English Language Learners Definition of precursor

somewhat formal : something that comes before something else and that often leads to or influences its development


pre·​cur·​sor | \ pri-ˈkər-sər How to pronounce precursor (audio) , ˈprē-ˌ How to pronounce precursor (audio) \

Medical Definition of precursor

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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Comments on precursor

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of or relating to the heavens

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