Synonym Chooser

How is the word previous distinct from other similar adjectives?

Some common synonyms of previous are antecedent, anterior, foregoing, former, preceding, and prior. While all these words mean "being before," 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

Where would antecedent be a reasonable alternative to previous?

The synonyms antecedent and previous are sometimes interchangeable, but antecedent applies to order in time and may suggest a causal relation.

conditions antecedent to the revolution

In what contexts can anterior take the place of previous?

While the synonyms anterior and previous are close in meaning, anterior applies to position before or ahead of usually in space, sometimes in time or order.

the anterior lobe of the brain

When might foregoing be a better fit than previous?

In some situations, the words foregoing and previous are roughly equivalent. However, foregoing applies chiefly to statements.

the foregoing remarks

When is it sensible to use former instead of previous?

Although the words former and previous have much in common, former implies always a definite comparison or contrast with something that is latter.

the former name of the company

When can preceding be used instead of previous?

The meanings of preceding and previous largely overlap; however, preceding usually implies being immediately before in time or in place.

the preceding sentence

Thesaurus Entries Near previous

Cite this Entry

“Previous.” Thesaurus, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 26 Feb. 2024.

More from Merriam-Webster on previous

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!