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 precursor (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 move could be a potential precursor to a wider shake-up at the former president’s company, the Trump Organization, as the reality of the indictment takes hold for Mr. Trump and his senior executives. New York Times, 12 July 2021 And the scene in Phoenix when the team returned from Los Angeles was raucous, joyous, a tiny precursor to the party the Suns hope to have in a couple weeks. Tim Reynolds, Star Tribune, 1 July 2021 Brewster had developed a precursor to the web called WAIS, and then a web-traffic measurement platform called Alexa, eventually bought by Amazon. Jonathan Zittrain, The Atlantic, 30 June 2021 Decades of empirical studies show that building up a domestic market is a necessary precursor to export success. Forbes, 29 June 2021 Nesher Ramla might turn out to be the missing link, a Neanderthal precursor that researchers were looking for. Chris Smith, BGR, 27 June 2021 Such agreements create the basis for recurring dialogue on trade issues, and sometimes serve a precursor to full-fledged free-trade agreements. Chao Deng, WSJ, 25 June 2021 The mayor has a lot riding on Train for Jobs — considered a precursor to Nirenberg’s Ready to Work program, the next phase of the city’s job training efforts slated to begin in September. Joshua Fechter, San Antonio Express-News, 23 June 2021 My psychiatrist eventually diagnosed me with acute stress disorder, a precursor to PTSD that lasts from three days to a month after experiencing a life-threatening situation. Washington Post, 27 May 2021

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 entry 1

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Time Traveler for precursor

Time Traveler

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

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Last Updated

15 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Precursor.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 23 Jul. 2021.

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More Definitions for precursor



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

More from Merriam-Webster on precursor

Nglish: Translation of precursor for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of precursor for Arabic Speakers


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