Definition of antecedent in English:



  • 1A thing that existed before or logically precedes another.

    ‘some antecedents to the African novel might exist in Africa's oral traditions’
    • ‘The film's main character and driving force has no obvious antecedents in movie history and didn't exactly spawn a new genre.’
    • ‘Not only does minority unionism have historical antecedents in the private sector, but it has strong roots in the public sector, which accounts for an ever larger share of the union movement.’
    • ‘Whatever the historical antecedents, there is no doubt that the invention of the internet and email has hastened the end of truth.’
    • ‘Both the National and Liberal parties trace their antecedents to the late 1800s.’
    • ‘Practitioners have also sought African antecedents to prevailing African-American values in their attempts to fashion more effective clinical interventions.’
    • ‘It was administered under the Soviet system from central clinics at which a manual record system (the antecedent of the omniscient computer chip) was maintained.’
    • ‘Still, it's too indebted to its antecedents to amount to any more than a promising footnote.’
    • ‘This strategy of assessment assumes that behavior is best explained by the antecedents that precede and the consequences that follow that behavior.’
    • ‘There are literary and historical antecedents to this book, too.’
    • ‘The illusions all have historical antecedents.’
    • ‘This project also serves to remind us that the desire to mediate the future at the moment it emerges into the present has its historical antecedents.’
    • ‘The antecedents to this revolution in thought are found in the 11 th and 12 th centuries when most of the ideas of the ancient Greek philosophers were wed together into a new body of beliefs.’
    • ‘Pundits have searched for literary antecedents to this creature.’
    • ‘Many investigators have been mostly concerned with causes of depression and anxiety - the antecedents to depression.’
    • ‘It is perhaps only by understanding the historical and cultural antecedents of Irish neutrality that we can begin to figure out a new way forward.’
    • ‘Irritation of the nose and throat, thirst, and the need to urinate also are common antecedents to an asthma attack.’
    • ‘If this development had antecedents in the past, however, never did these phenomena cross the threshold in bilateral relations that was traversed in 2002.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The majority of our patients have recognisable antecedents and behaviours as precursors to displaying violent behaviour.’
    • ‘Valuing individuals by the contribution they make to ‘the greater good’ has some very significant historical antecedents.’
    precursor, forerunner, predecessor
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  • 2antecedentsA person's ancestors or family and social background.

    ‘her early life and antecedents have been traced’
    • ‘And there are several new independents whose backgrounds and antecedents will surely make them amenable to a little persuasion.’
    • ‘He travelled with a relative, an 80-year-old German-speaking Methodist minister whose own antecedents had come from the house which Mr Bovenizer still occupies.’
    • ‘Her mother's family was Welsh and her father an Englishman with Irish antecedents whose job in the Customs and Excise required the family to move from Chester to Hull, Birkenhead and Cardiff.’
    • ‘I had to tell him that my crooked lineage, unlike his blue blood, allows me to establish many antecedents, Punjabi being one.’
    • ‘As always it is possible to find antecedents in the Middle Ages, as the Peruzzi family's super firm mentioned earlier illustrates.’
    • ‘My £100k policy would place my partners as beneficiaries rather than my antecedents to my estate.’
    • ‘Unlike my mother, my cousin's mother and family weren't ashamed of their indigenous antecedents.’
    • ‘If you type your surname into Google followed by ‘family history’, the chances are that you will find dozens - maybe hundreds - of sites devoted to unearthing origins and antecedents.’
    • ‘The Ulyanovs, a family with both Jewish and German antecedents, were socially insecure, hovering on the very edge of Tsarist society.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Yet he is entranced by the story of his antecedents, revelling in the romance of their relationships.’
    • ‘When war broke out in 1914 the German antecedents of the royal family were a source of embarrassment.’
    • ‘In origin Carson himself had some Catholic antecedents as he was partially Italian.’
    • ‘How many could find the commitment, the valour or the resilience shown by their antecedents fighting in remote lands under conditions of appalling hardship, if called on to do so today?’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Mother is a prodigious talker from a long line of verbal antecedents.’
    • ‘Nothing was known locally either of his antecedents or of the reasons which had prompted him to come to this Lancashire hamlet.’
    • ‘If I went out with anyone even casually, they wanted to know his antecedents and qualifications in order to plot his future dependability as a husband!’
    • ‘This assimilation has been so successful that it is challenging to discover the ethnic antecedents of many families who have become completely Americanized.’
    • ‘He devotes an almost unendurable amount of space to Bogarde's antecedents, family and childhood.’
    ancestor, forefather, forebear, predecessor, progenitor
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  • 3Grammar
    An earlier word, phrase, or clause to which another word (especially a following relative pronoun) refers back.

    • ‘My students make mistakes with matching the pronoun and the antecedent all the time.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Most uses of pronouns are ‘lazy’ - the antecedents of the pronouns could have easily been used instead of the pronouns.’
    • ‘He thinks the word ‘everyone’ is singular, so it can't be the antecedent of a third person plural pronoun like ‘they’ or ‘their’.’
  • 4Logic
    The statement contained in the ‘if’ clause of a conditional proposition.

    • ‘In many cases, the relevant conditionals will be counterfactual: their antecedents will be false.’
    • ‘‘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.’
    • ‘We test scientific hypotheses by bringing about their antecedents and seeing if the results are as they predicted.’
    • ‘If the antecedent of a conditional is false, the statement is always true!’
    • ‘Obedience to a hypothetical imperative is always obedience to the condition expressed in its antecedent.’


  • 1Preceding in time or order; previous or pre-existing.

    ‘antecedent events’
    • ‘But I didn't put them prominently in the article because I was trying to address an antecedent point about how we think about them.’
    • ‘Hawthorne's text is studiously inscrutable about events antecedent to Hester's being branded adulteress.’
    • ‘They included providing full details of monies paid to Mr Nicholls while being ‘handled’ by Essex Police and copies of antecedent history, including arrests, known for him since the end of the trial.’
    • ‘And much will depend, in this case, on all of the conditions antecedent to the initiation of combat.’
    • ‘We expand on the accounting- and market-based measures that have already established this antecedent effect in previous research by using year-length measures as antecedents.’
    • ‘Behaviors are directed by the antecedent stimuli that preceded them and announce the availability of a positive or negative consequence.’
    • ‘Fossils in these strata might have implied a long succession of life forms antecedent to man.’
    • ‘Professor Dyson, on the other hand, will ‘offer more sophisticated and subtle analyses of cultural traits and racial behaviors that have their roots in antecedent practices.’’
    • ‘So it has a long antecedent history before it becomes clinically evident.’
    • ‘A neighbor of mine, a toddler, had diarrhea due to giardia infection, and one of the antecedent events was the swallowing of several gulps of stagnant water squeezed from a bath toy in an outdoor wading pool.’
    • ‘Indeed, despite antecedent ideas and practices, modern acupuncture, with such strange aspects as electro - acupuncture, may never have existed in traditional China in anything like the form that it is practised today.’
    • ‘A close inspection suggests antecedent variables that may have set the occasion for his conclusions, erroneous though they evidently were.’
    • ‘However, an antecedent index in alphabetical order, giving the number of each item defined, allows these terms to be located quickly.’
    • ‘In this article, we explore the current status of research investigating the use of antecedent events in the functional assessment process, with a particular emphasis on interventions conducted in natural settings.’
    • ‘Acute infectious illnesses are well-known antecedent events in two thirds of patients who suffer from the syndrome.’
    • ‘The second analogy - the principle of causality - specifies that for every event, there is some set of antecedent circumstances from which the event follows according to a rule.’
    • ‘Our psychology must therefore take account not only of the conditions antecedent to mental states, but of their resultant consequences as well.’
    • ‘Frequently, the antecedent history is a narration of events of salvation; in later texts, it may be a list of exemplary figures or a dogmatic statement about the activity of God with the world.’
    • ‘So our antecedent concern emerged with a new clarity in the emotions we experienced.’
    • ‘Students' relative strengths on these indicators suggest that these behaviors can be used as rewards antecedent to displays of disruptive behavior.’
    previous, earlier, prior, foregoing, preceding, precursory
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  • 2Grammar
    Denoting or counting as an antecedent.

    • ‘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!’
    • ‘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.’


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