pre·​vi·​ous ˈprē-vē-əs How to pronounce previous (audio)
: going before in time or order : prior
the previous owners
previous attempts had failed
reread the previous page
: acting too soon : premature
somewhat previous in his conclusion
previously adverb
Physicists have constructed a pipette that dispenses a billionth of a trillionth of a liter, a droplet that's a thousand times as small as volumes previously achieved. A. Cunningham
Previously, many mutations have been induced by harsh treatments such as X rays, UV light or chemicals. Kevin Struhl
previousness noun
Had I been capable of looking closer then, I might have asked myself why every kind of previousness miraculously survived there … Robyn Davidson
Choose the Right Synonym for previous

preceding, antecedent, foregoing, previous, prior, former, anterior mean being before.

preceding usually implies being immediately before in time or in place.

the preceding sentence

antecedent applies to order in time and may suggest a causal relation.

conditions antecedent to the revolution

foregoing applies chiefly to statements.

the foregoing remarks

previous and prior imply existing or occurring earlier, but prior often adds an implication of greater importance.

a child from a previous marriage
a prior obligation

former implies always a definite comparison or contrast with something that is latter.

the former name of the company

anterior applies to position before or ahead of usually in space, sometimes in time or order.

the anterior lobe of the brain

Examples of previous in a Sentence

She has a child from a previous marriage. The two characters met in a previous chapter. the previous owners of the house
Recent Examples on the Web That’s down one spot and 11 points from the previous week. Mark Zeigler, San Diego Union-Tribune, 4 Dec. 2023 In my two previous films there was a lot of nature and the forest. Martin Dale, Variety, 3 Dec. 2023 In a review, the F.A.A. acknowledged that fatigue might have been a factor, given that the controller’s schedule had included two overtime shifts in each of the previous three weeks. Sydney Ember, New York Times, 2 Dec. 2023 This is slightly down from the previous week, when 9,914 tests were recorded and compared to last year when 16,067 positive tests were recorded during the same period. Mary Kekatos, ABC News, 2 Dec. 2023 Cohen said the agency has also been tracking other respiratory illnesses accelerating in recent weeks ahead of COVID-19's rise, in line with previous fall and winter virus seasons. Alexander Tin, CBS News, 1 Dec. 2023 That’s a 15 percent improvement on the show’s previous same-day season high of 5.27 million viewers for the Nov. 13 episode. Rick Porter, The Hollywood Reporter, 1 Dec. 2023 Season 6 will be packaged differently than its previous seasons. Skyler Caruso, Peoplemag, 1 Dec. 2023 That’s significant because in four previous seasons together, keeping both available has been this team’s biggest hurdle. Andrew Greif, Los Angeles Times, 1 Dec. 2023 See More

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

Word History


Latin praevius leading the way, from prae- pre- + via way — more at way

First Known Use

1621, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of previous was in 1621

Dictionary Entries Near previous

Cite this Entry

“Previous.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


pre·​vi·​ous ˈprē-vē-əs How to pronounce previous (audio)
: going before in time or order : preceding, prior
previously adverb

More from Merriam-Webster on previous

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