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

Example Sentences

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 The Cyclones had allowed 24 points combined in the first quarter of their previous 11 games. Stephen Hawkins, ajc, 27 Nov. 2022 Landry Shamet is available to play Saturday after missing the previous seven games in concussion protocols. Duane Rankin, The Arizona Republic, 27 Nov. 2022 The program went 9-12 in its previous 21 games and had just one win against a Power 5 opponent over the prior calendar year. Tom Green |, al, 27 Nov. 2022 Held out of eight of the previous 10 games by coach’s decision, and utilized for only eight minutes of mop-up duty since Oct. 26, Haywood was thrust into 42 minutes of action in the overtime road loss to the Wizards. Ira Winderman, Sun Sentinel, 27 Nov. 2022 The Cyclones had allowed 24 points combined in the first quarter of their previous 11 games. Stephen Hawkins, Chron, 26 Nov. 2022 Connor Turnbull making presence felt inside Butler freshman Connor Turnbull had been relegated to mop-up duty in Butler's previous games, but with DJ Hughes unavailable, Matta turned to the 6-10 center in the first half. Akeem Glaspie, The Indianapolis Star, 25 Nov. 2022 That included making just 5 of 33 shots (15.2%) in the previous three games. Jeff Potrykus, Journal Sentinel, 25 Nov. 2022 Hayes had been playing some of the best basketball of his career prior to the injury, shooting 38.3% from 3 during his previous six games. Detroit Free Press, 24 Nov. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'previous.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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 3 Dec. 2022.

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

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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