Definition of ancestor in English:


Syllabification: an·ces·tor
Pronunciation: /ˈanˌsestər


  • 1A person, typically one more remote than a grandparent, from whom one is descended: my ancestor Admiral Anson circumnavigated the globe 250 years ago
    More example sentences
    • A smaller unit is the lineage, a kin group of four or five generations descended from a male ancestor traced though the male line.
    • Yet evolution predicts not just successions of forms, but also genetic lineages from ancestors to descendants.
    • The family unit has at its head the ancestors followed by the grandparents, the father, the wives and then the children.
  • 1.1An early type of animal or plant from which others have evolved.
    More example sentences
    • It is generally accepted that all multicellular animals have evolved from a common ancestor, which itself evolved from a single-celled organism.
    • There are two main types, the dome heads and the horned dinosaurs, which evolved from a common ancestor during the early Cretaceous.
    • Finally we get to the common ancestor of all animals, plants, protists, and fungi.
  • 1.2An early version of a machine, system, etc.: this instrument is an ancestor of the lute
    More example sentences
    • This solution is the ancestor of many versions of platonism in mathematics.
    • The oud is a popular instrument; it is an ancient stringed instrument that is the ancestor of the European lute.
    • An ancient stringed instrument, it is an ancestor of the European lute.


Middle English: from Old French ancestre, from Latin antecessor, from antecedere, from ante 'before' + cedere 'go'.

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