Definition of ancestor in English:



  • 1A person, typically one more remote than a grandparent, from whom one is descended.

    ‘he could trace his ancestors back to James the First’
    • ‘Did the fact that Welsh kinship in general recognized the claims of a wider family, descending from a more remote ancestor, lead to more bitter disputes here?’
    • ‘She said 1,000 years ago it was a piece of marshy ground forming part of the disputed kingdom of Glamorgan ruled over by descendants of her ancestor Rhodri the Great.’
    • ‘Every now and then oversees visitors will drop in and it always winds up they sometimes are tracing ancestors or relatives.’
    • ‘A smaller unit is the lineage, a kin group of four or five generations descended from a male ancestor traced though the male line.’
    • ‘They have a daughter Valerie, as well as two sons, one of whom is the ancestor of the evil Elliot Stokes of 1970.’
    • ‘Her lack of respect and love for her ancestors, many of whom share a lived memory of Hitler, is appalling.’
    • ‘The family unit has at its head the ancestors followed by the grandparents, the father, the wives and then the children.’
    • ‘Why was he dating someone whom his ancestors told him would only be his downfall?’
    • ‘All our remote ancestors were prehistoric and studying them is one way of understanding our own origins and evolution.’
    • ‘Nicci knew he would be nothing like his ancestors whom she had long ago met.’
    • ‘Visiting the remote village where her ancestors lived, Syal retrieves a stone from the ruined family home - now a cowshed.’
    • ‘The ancestors watch over their descendants, punishing or rewarding them for their behavior.’
    • ‘Respect for ancestors, grandparents, and elders remains a key element in creating and demonstrating the right attitude.’
    • ‘It was transmitted to me that I was seeing my ancestors, whom I had often thought about.’
    • ‘There are stories my mother has told me of the degradations that my grandparents and their ancestors had to go through.’
    • ‘In principle, all the descendants of a seventh-generation ancestor are members of one extended family.’
    • ‘The white race is anyone directly descended from our European ancestors.’
    • ‘Like other farmers in the region, Eysteinn viewed his own position in the region within the context of his ancestors and future descendants.’
    • ‘Yet evolution predicts not just successions of forms, but also genetic lineages from ancestors to descendants.’
    • ‘In other words, we come into the world bearing with us an archetypal endowment which enables us to adapt to reality in the same way as our remote ancestors.’
    forebear, forefather, predecessor, progenitor, antecedent
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    1. 1.1An early type of animal or plant from which others have evolved.
      ‘the ancestor of most dolphins is not clear’
      ‘both species of elephant have a common ancestor’
      • ‘Fossil records show that millions of years ago, cows and pigs shared a common ancestor, an animal that looked more pig than cow.’
      • ‘Both Effigia and the ostrich dinosaurs would have evolved from a common ancestor that lived long before, the study says.’
      • ‘Fourteen different finches evolved from a common ancestor, each adapted to suit the conditions of their various islands.’
      • ‘In order to locate the remote ancestors of turtles, other, more subtle, features must be found.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In fact, Pandas admits that the fruit flies of Hawaii - a diverse group of more than 300 species - have all evolved from a common ancestor.’
      • ‘Unlike all other jawed vertebrates, placoderms never had teeth, and did not descend from toothed ancestors.’
      • ‘It appears they evolved from a common ancestor in Australia, but the time of their divergence is still unclear.’
      • ‘For example, from the fact that the human egg is a simple cell, we may at once infer that there has been at a very remote time a unicellular ancestor of the human race resembling an Amoeba.’
      • ‘Finally we get to the common ancestor of all animals, plants, protists, and fungi.’
      • ‘This indicates that the japonica and indica strains are descended from different ancestors.’
      • ‘A date this early, at first blush, appears preposterous, for it suggests a common ancestor of land plants that predates land on our planet.’
      • ‘This may suggest a small population size in a common ancestor of animals.’
      • ‘Species are often assumed to have evolved from a common ancestor by a complete process of branching, followed by complete genetic isolation.’
      • ‘Closely related animals tend to have similar eyes, because they descend from recent ancestors.’
      • ‘It is also possible to compare the descendants of a single ancestor to look at patterns of origin and extinction in these groups, or to look at relative size and diversity of the groups.’
      • ‘They argued that the simplest interpretation of this gap was a single-insertion event in a common ancestor shared solely by animals and fungi.’
      • ‘The historic Mission grape, whose ancestors were planted by the early Spanish settlers, has all but disappeared.’
      • ‘But understanding of how these beetles live, and how they evolved from a common ancestor, makes them less mysterious.’
      forebear, forefather, predecessor, progenitor, antecedent
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    2. 1.2An early version of a machine, system, etc.
      ‘this instrument is an ancestor of the lute’
      • ‘It is played on the oud (an ancestor of the lute) and the rebaba (a one-stringed instrument).’
      • ‘It was placed there out of the conviction that it was the ancestor, however remote, of the American constitution and the bill of rights.’
      • ‘An ancient stringed instrument, it is an ancestor of the European lute.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They evolved from a common ancestor but for both nations to play each other at all a hybrid set of rules has had to be devised.’
      forerunner, precursor, predecessor
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Middle English: from Old French ancestre, from Latin antecessor, from antecedere, from ante before + cedere go.