Definition of past in English:

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Pronunciation: /pɑːst/


1Gone by in time and no longer existing: the danger is now past
More example sentences
  • The Conservative Party came round to him, and by October the worst of the dangers of that year were past.
  • Surely the age of bigotry is past.
  • But some argue the worst may be past.
gone by, over, over and done with, no more, gone, done, dead and buried, finished, ended, forgotten, bygone, former, old, of old, earlier, long-ago, ancient, defunct, extinct
literary of yore, olden, foregone
1.1 [attributive] Belonging to a former time: they made a study of the reasons why past attempts had failed he is a past chairman of the society
More example sentences
  • Club captain Johnson and past captain Jacobs completed six rounds of golf in a day to raise money for charity.
  • The union's offer to assist the government is completely in line with its past practices.
  • It is time to forget past differences and work together for the larger interest of the nation.
previous, former, prior, foregoing, late, erstwhile, as was, one-time, sometime, ex-
formal quondam
archaic whilom
1.2 [attributive] (Of a specified period of time) occurring before and leading up to the time of speaking or writing: the band has changed over the past twelve months
More example sentences
  • Michelle has been doing a lot of writing over the past year and has just signed a record deal with Mercury Records.
  • We only went out for two months over this past summer and it was really hard on her when we broke up.
  • There is a long-established genre of writing about boys' public schools in the past century.
last, recent, preceding, latter
1.3 [attributive] Grammar (Of a tense) expressing an action that has happened or a state that previously existed.
Example sentences
  • Pashto has a rich agreement mechanism, but one that is manifested differently in the present and past tenses.
  • We often use the past tense in English to describe an imagined present or future.
  • British imperialism is habitually referred to in the past tense, as if it had gone the way of the empire.


1 (usually the past) The time before the moment of speaking or writing: she found it hard to make ends meet in the past the war-damaged church is preserved as a reminder of the past
More example sentences
  • They are expressing the national agenda of their new country by documenting important moments in the past.
  • For each of the men their existence has been brought back to these moments of the past.
  • We have been met in the past with surly and indifferent service at many retail outlets.
formerly, previously, in days/years/times gone by, in bygone days, back in the day, in former times, in the (good) old days, at one time, in days of old, in the olden days, in olden times;
before, hitherto, once, once upon a time, time was when, in auld lang syne, long ago, in antiquity
literary in days of yore, of yore, in yesteryear
1.1The history of a person or place: the monuments act as guidelines through the country’s colourful past
More example sentences
  • They talked about their pasts, their goals, and their futures.
  • The hotel has a colourful past.
  • Given Cox's past, it is hardly surprising he acquired such coping mechanisms.
history, background, life story, life, experience, career to date, biography
1.2 informal A part of a person’s history that is considered to be shameful: the heroine was a lady with a past
More example sentences
  • It's a basic film noir set-up: a guy with a past and a blonde with a problem, and a supporting cast of lost souls.
  • The once-revered footballer is no different from any other alcoholic with a past.
  • He's also desperate to unearth Lady Dedlock's secret past and is intent on making her life hell.
2 Grammar A past tense or form of a verb: a simple past of the first conjugation
More example sentences
  • In their recounting of experience encourage them to use the past continuous and the simple past.
  • These percentages of the simple verb form in the past were much lower than those for the simple present.
  • It takes time and effort to master the vowel and consonantal changes associated with the past of irregular verbs.


1To or on the further side of: he rode on past the crossroads
More example sentences
  • The sun was just reaching its peak when the horse and rider rode past the town's gates.
  • Five minutes later Owen beat Dixon to a long through ball and side footed the ball past Seaman for a late, late winner.
  • I walked several miles south along the beach past Venice and just spent some time relaxing and breathing in the sea air.
1.1In front of or from one side to the other of: he began to drive slowly past the houses
More example sentences
  • He rides past a big white church on the left of him and passes some condos to his right.
  • I rode past many miles of homes and finally reached the bit of road that was more used.
  • I got my boyfriend to come and see and we saw them move fast past the front of our house and out of sight.
in front of, by, beyond
2Beyond in time; later than: by this time it was past 3.30 my watch said twenty past twelve
More example sentences
  • I got back from Lucca at half past midnight this morning, and spent about two minutes sorting the paper post.
  • The family has been told Kerry is unlikely to live past his early teens.
  • I arranged to meet Stephen at half past two.
beyond, beyond the limits of, in excess of
3No longer capable of: he is past giving the best advice
More example sentences
  • It is impossible to capture the magic of Galway and most folk are well past analysing it all.
  • They were past being polite.
  • Perhaps foolishly I thought I was past getting excited by press releases.
3.1Beyond the limits or scope of: I was long past caring and immediately fell asleep on the bed
More example sentences
  • To have some other arena past college to strive for is a great prospect for our kids.
  • When you get past the early stages you will both work out what gets to each of you.
  • You have to be able to extend yourself past your limits and work in new ways for the individual.


1So as to pass from one side of something to the other: a flotilla of glossy limousines swept past
More example sentences
  • She said that from her living room she caught a glimpse of the car going past and then heard the bang.
  • He was much quicker but could not get past and unfortunately, the time deficit by the time of his first stop was too big to handle.
  • As the air rushes past it collects small quantities of the solution which are then deposited onto the skin.
along, by, on
2Used to indicate the lapse of time: a week went past and nothing changed
More example sentences
  • We can recollect or retrospect the nature or character of a mental event just past.
  • Many folks lack the courage to do so, even when the time to wait before acting is long past.
  • The next half hour went past amazingly fast.



not put it past someone

Believe someone to be capable of doing a particular wrong or rash thing: I wouldn’t put it past him to slip something into the drinks
More example sentences
  • Just kidding about that last one-but don't put it past them!
  • Unless Labour announces a tax-break for publishers in the next Budget (and don't put it past them) this whole row should die down quickly.
  • He hasn't disappointed himself or me yet, so I don't put it past him to make something happen within a year.

past it

British informal Too old to be of any use or any good at anything: he was taken into his father-in-law’s firm and became a partner when the old man got past it
More example sentences
  • There is an idea that every player who shared in the '98 glory should be there this time, whether he is past it or not.
  • As always these days, Clint's character, a down-at-heel boxing trainer, is old and past it.
  • That's anyone under the age of 25 who decrees celebs, gushy reader advice and horoscopes to be past it.
past one's prime, not as young as one was, not as young as one used to be;
in one's dotage, long in the tooth, as old as the hills;
elderly, old, aged, senior, ancient, venerable;
decrepit, doddering, doddery, not long for this world
informal over the hill, no spring chicken
formal senescent



Example sentences
  • She also says that the accompanying photographs provide ‘an exquisite index of the pastness of the past.’
  • It calls up the seeming paradox of writing a history, an account of pastness, of things that are of the relative present.
  • Yet pastness and futurity, he argued, are inherently contradictory; so nothing in reality can correspond to them.


Middle English: variant of passed, past participle of pass1.

Words that rhyme with past

aghast, avast, Belfast, blast, cast, caste, contrast, fast, last, mast, miscast, outlast, unsurpassed, vast

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: past

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