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for·​mer ˈfȯr-mər How to pronounce former (audio)
: coming before in time
She now appears like her former self.
: of, relating to, or occurring in the past
former correspondence
restoring the theater to its former glory
: preceding in place or arrangement : foregoing
the former part of the chapter
: first in order of two or more things cited or understood
of the two given, the former spelling is more common
of the two spellings, the former is more common
: having been previously : onetime
a former athlete
her former husband


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form·​er ˈfȯr-mər How to pronounce former (audio)
: one that forms
chiefly British : a member of a school form
usually used in combination
sixth former
Choose the Right Synonym for former

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 former in a Sentence

Adjective the coach is a former professional baseball player the former manual had some errors, but the current version has its own problems
Recent Examples on the Web
Kane Footwear was established in 2020 by former Maverik Lacrosse CEO John Gagliardi and podiatrist Dr. Daniel Geller. Rachel Cormack, Robb Report, 9 Apr. 2024 That’s the argument of former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis, who became famous trying to defend debt-laden Greece from its German creditors. Morgan Meaker, WIRED, 9 Apr. 2024 The Times’ Lila Seidman has a wonderful story about a 300-mile pathway through the world’s tallest trees, hugging the Pacific coast, being planned along a former railway. Sammy Roth, Los Angeles Times, 9 Apr. 2024 House Republicans generally chose to ignore former and perhaps next president Donald Trump, whose position recently flip-flopped to opposing a TikTok ban—a likely outcome, given Beijing’s opposition to any divestment. David Meyer, Fortune, 9 Apr. 2024 Graham echoed other conservative Republicans − including former Vice President Mike Pence − in criticizing Trump's announcement that states should decide their own individual policies. David Jackson, USA TODAY, 9 Apr. 2024 The 76-year-old actor and former Governor of California shared a photograph from recovery, including a sight gag about his new pacemaker, depicted as a cartoon-esque time bomb. J. Kim Murphy, Variety, 29 Mar. 2024 They can be made for no more than $2.83 per month’s supply, the authors concluded, based on interviews with former employees and consultants to injection device manufacturers. Madison Muller, Fortune Europe, 28 Mar. 2024 Anthropic was formed in 2021 by former employees of OpenAI, including Daniela Amodei and her brother Dario, who serves as its chief executive officer. Matt Day, Fortune, 28 Mar. 2024
Oakland, another former hotbed for new hotel development, saw just two hotel openings in 2023. George Avalos, The Mercury News, 17 Jan. 2024 The tricky part was figuring out the right concentrations: Too much alcohol dilutes the film formers, too little produces a longer dry time and a more obvious film. Maura Lynch, Allure, 21 Sep. 2023 Most mascaras are emulsions — a base of water and oil, plus pigments to darken, and a blend of starches, fibers, waxes, and film formers to add length and volume. Maura Lynch, Allure, 21 Sep. 2023 The organic, colorful former creates a symbiotic relationship with the rugged, geometric latter to generate contemplative reflection. Elle Decor Editors, ELLE Decor, 11 May 2023 Best Eye Treatment Mary Kay Instant Puffiness Reducer $35 at Mary Kay Credit: Watch in wonder as a trio of sodium silicate, clays, and film formers sends bags packing instantly. Women's Health, 9 May 2023 How did these questions not just arise, but seize the cultural heights, become the day-to-day obsession of all opinion-formers and tastemakers? Michael Brendan Dougherty, National Review, 29 Mar. 2023 The runs on Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank over the past week⁠—the former’s collapse in part caused by interest rate hikes squeezing its Treasury and mortagage bond investments—may even call for a pause in the Fed’s rate-tightening schedule. Nate Dicamillo, Quartz, 14 Mar. 2023 Now in a recent conversation with Michael Brendan Dougherty Friedersdorf describes the former's baseball newsletter, The Slurve. Razib Khan, Discover Magazine, 7 Apr. 2013

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

Word History



Middle English, from forme first, from Old English forma — more at foremost

First Known Use


12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of former was in the 12th century

Dictionary Entries Near former

Cite this Entry

“Former.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 19 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: coming before in time
: first mentioned or first of two things mentioned or understood
of the two choices the former is better
: having once been
a former big-league ballplayer

More from Merriam-Webster on former

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