Definition of antecedent in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˌan(t)əˈsēdnt/


1A thing or event that existed before or logically precedes another: some antecedents to the African novel might exist in Africa’s oral traditions
More example sentences
  • It traces the historical antecedents to freed people's intense desire to become literate and demonstrates how the visions of enslaved African Americans emerged into plans and action once slavery ended.
  • There are literary and historical antecedents to this book, too.
  • Pundits have searched for literary antecedents to this creature.
precursor, forerunner, predecessor
1.1 (antecedents) A person’s ancestors or family and social background: her early life and antecedents have been traced
More example sentences
  • The powerful Colonna family, whose antecedents included Pope Martin V, had become titular rulers of Caravaggio's native Duchy of Milan, and showed a solicitous concern for his welfare on several occasions.
  • Way back when old India included Pakistan there was a family called Ramsinghani with antecedents in Lahore and Karachi and since the British could not pronounce their name properly the alternative Ramsay was adopted.
  • And there are several new independents whose backgrounds and antecedents will surely make them amenable to a little persuasion.
ancestor, forefather, forebear, progenitor, primogenitor;
(antecedents) ancestry, family tree, lineage, genealogy, roots
1.2 Grammar A word, phrase, clause, or sentence to which another word (especially a following relative pronoun) refers.
Example sentences
  • Plural pronouns with nominally singular antecedents like ‘everyone’ have been a major battlefield in the grammar wars.
  • Because they are free of antecedents, such clauses are sometimes called independent or free relative clauses.
  • He thinks the word ‘everyone’ is singular, so it can't be the antecedent of a third person plural pronoun like ‘they’ or ‘their’.
1.3 Logic The statement contained in the “if” clause of a conditional proposition.
Example sentences
  • Obedience to a hypothetical imperative is always obedience to the condition expressed in its antecedent.
  • If the antecedent of a conditional is false, the statement is always true!
  • ‘If lying is wrong, then he will lie,’ has an antecedent whose embedded content is the same as a statement predicating the property on which the speakers moral disapproval supervenes.
1.4 Mathematics The first term in a ratio.
Example sentences
  • When there is but one antecedent and one consequent, the ratio is called a simple ratio.
  • Alternate ratio means taking the antecedent in relation to the antecedent and the consequent in relation to the consequent.


1Preceding in time or order; previous or preexisting: the antecedent events that prompt you to break a diet
More example sentences
  • Hawthorne's text is studiously inscrutable about events antecedent to Hester's being branded adulteress.
  • Behaviors are directed by the antecedent stimuli that preceded them and announce the availability of a positive or negative consequence.
  • And much will depend, in this case, on all of the conditions antecedent to the initiation of combat.
previous, earlier, prior, preceding, precursory, former, foregoing
formal anterior
1.1Denoting a grammatical antecedent.
Example sentences
  • There seem to be two changes: a loosening of the link backward to an antecedent noun phrase, and a loosening of the link forward to a modified noun phrase.
  • The phenomenon is particularly interesting because the conditions under which complement anaphora (as this case of anaphora is called) is acceptable depend on formal properties of the antecedent determiner.
  • What I mean is that if we look at the antecedent clause of the conditional, then it is empty - there is nothing that it corresponds to!



Pronunciation: /ˌan(t)əˈsēdns/
Example sentences
  • Now Afro-Americans, frustrated in their search for antecedence in their African line, might turn to their Scottish roots.
  • Unlike surrounding leaves, these pages - heavily edited, faded, some with frayed edges - were typed with a black ribbon, a telltale sign of antecedence.
  • This has a long antecedence, and the book reviews some of the historical and theoretical literature on the nature of law, including some Marxist sources.


Late Middle English: from Old French or from Latin antecedent- 'going before', from antecedere, from ante 'before' + cedere 'go'.

  • cede from early 16th century:

    Cede is from French céder or Latin cedere ‘to yield, give way, go’. Cedere is a rich source of English words including abscess (mid 16th century) ‘going away’ (of the infection when it bursts); access [Middle English] ‘go to’; ancestor (Middle English) someone who went ante ‘before’; antecedent (Late Middle English) from the same base as ancestor; cease (Middle English); concede (Late Middle English) to give way completely; decease (Middle English) ‘go away’; exceed (Late Middle English) to go beyond a boundary; intercede (late 16th century) go between; predecessor (Late Middle English) one who went away before; proceed (Late Middle English) to go forward; recede (Late Middle English) ‘go back’; and succeed (Late Middle English) ‘come close after’.

Words that rhyme with antecedent

decedent, needn't, precedent

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: an·te·ced·ent

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