Definition of antecedent in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˌantɪˈsiːd(ə)nt/


1A thing 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
2 (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, predecessor, progenitor;
(antecedents) family, family tree, stock, ancestry, descent, genealogy, roots, extraction, birth;
history, past, background, record
rare filiation, stirps
3 Grammar An earlier word, phrase, or clause to which another word (especially a following relative pronoun) refers back.
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’.
4 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.


1Preceding in time or order; previous or pre-existing: antecedent events
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, foregoing, preceding, precursory;
rare anterior
2 Grammar Denoting or counting as an 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: /ˌantɪˈsiːdəns/
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.


Example sentences
  • For present purposes, the most important point is that group polarization will significantly increase if people think of themselves, antecedently or otherwise, as part of a group having a shared identity and a degree of solidarity.
  • It is easy to see how this might happen with discussion groups on the Internet, and indeed with individuals not engaged in discussion but consulting only ideas to which they are antecedently inclined.
  • However, the pattern he observed was ‘detachable’ as it matched an image he had, antecedently and independently from this particular heap of stones, stored in his mind.


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

Line breaks: ante|cedent

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