Definition of ancestor in US English:



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

    ‘my ancestor Admiral Anson circumnavigated the globe 250 years ago’
    • ‘The ancestors watch over their descendants, punishing or rewarding them for their behavior.’
    • ‘In principle, all the descendants of a seventh-generation ancestor are members of one extended family.’
    • ‘Like other farmers in the region, Eysteinn viewed his own position in the region within the context of his ancestors and future descendants.’
    • ‘Visiting the remote village where her ancestors lived, Syal retrieves a stone from the ruined family home - now a cowshed.’
    • ‘Why was he dating someone whom his ancestors told him would only be his downfall?’
    • ‘There are stories my mother has told me of the degradations that my grandparents and their ancestors had to go through.’
    • ‘Nicci knew he would be nothing like his ancestors whom she had long ago met.’
    • ‘The white race is anyone directly descended from our European ancestors.’
    • ‘All our remote ancestors were prehistoric and studying them is one way of understanding our own origins and evolution.’
    • ‘Every now and then oversees visitors will drop in and it always winds up they sometimes are tracing ancestors or relatives.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘A smaller unit is the lineage, a kin group of four or five generations descended from a male ancestor traced though the male line.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The family unit has at its head the ancestors followed by the grandparents, the father, the wives and then the children.’
    • ‘Yet evolution predicts not just successions of forms, but also genetic lineages from ancestors to descendants.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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?’
    forebear, forefather, predecessor, progenitor, antecedent
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    1. 1.1 An early type of animal or plant from which others have evolved.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They argued that the simplest interpretation of this gap was a single-insertion event in a common ancestor shared solely by animals and fungi.’
      • ‘This may suggest a small population size in a common ancestor of animals.’
      • ‘Both Effigia and the ostrich dinosaurs would have evolved from a common ancestor that lived long before, the study says.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Closely related animals tend to have similar eyes, because they descend from recent ancestors.’
      • ‘But understanding of how these beetles live, and how they evolved from a common ancestor, makes them less mysterious.’
      • ‘A date this early, at first blush, appears preposterous, for it suggests a common ancestor of land plants that predates land on our planet.’
      • ‘Fossil records show that millions of years ago, cows and pigs shared a common ancestor, an animal that looked more pig than cow.’
      • ‘The historic Mission grape, whose ancestors were planted by the early Spanish settlers, has all but disappeared.’
      • ‘There are two main types, the dome heads and the horned dinosaurs, which evolved from a common ancestor during the early Cretaceous.’
      • ‘This indicates that the japonica and indica strains are descended from different 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.’
      • ‘Fourteen different finches evolved from a common ancestor, each adapted to suit the conditions of their various islands.’
      • ‘Species are often assumed to have evolved from a common ancestor by a complete process of branching, followed by complete genetic isolation.’
      • ‘Finally we get to the common ancestor of all animals, plants, protists, and fungi.’
      • ‘Unlike all other jawed vertebrates, placoderms never had teeth, and did not descend from toothed ancestors.’
      • ‘It is generally accepted that all multicellular animals have evolved from a common ancestor, which itself evolved from a single-celled organism.’
      • ‘It appears they evolved from a common ancestor in Australia, but the time of their divergence is still unclear.’
      • ‘In order to locate the remote ancestors of turtles, other, more subtle, features must be found.’
      forebear, forefather, predecessor, progenitor, antecedent
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    2. 1.2 An early version of a machine, system, etc.
      ‘this instrument is an ancestor of the lute’
      • ‘An ancient stringed instrument, it is an 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘It was placed there out of the conviction that it was the ancestor, however remote, of the American constitution and the bill of rights.’
      • ‘It is played on the oud (an ancestor of the lute) and the rebaba (a one-stringed instrument).’
      forerunner, precursor, predecessor
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Middle English: from Old French ancestre, from Latin antecessor, from antecedere, from ante ‘before’ + cedere ‘go’.