• Before


    • RP enPR: bĭfô', IPA: /bɪˈfɔː/
    • US enPR: bĭfôr', IPA: /bɪˈfɔːr/, /bəˈfɔːr/
    • Hyphenation: be + fore
    • Rhymes: -ɔː(r)


    From Middle English (adverb and preposition), from Old English beforan, itself from be- + foran 'before' (from fore)

    Full definition of before


    1. Earlier than (in time).
      I want this done before Monday.
      • Jonathan Swift (1667–1745)Before this treatise can become of use, two points are necessary.
      • 1898, Winston Churchill, The Celebrity Chapter 5, We made an odd party before the arrival of the Ten, particularly when the Celebrity dropped in for lunch or dinner.
      • 2011, November 11, Rory Houston, Estonia 0-4 Republic of Ireland, Stephen Ward then had to time his tackle excellently to deny Tarmo Kink as the Wolves winger slid the ball out of play before the Estonian could attempt to beat Given.
    2. In front of in space.
      He stood before me.
      We sat before the fire to warm ourselves.
      • John Milton (1608-1674)His angel, who shall go
        Before them in a cloud and pillar of fire.
      • 2013, Henry Petroski, The Evolution of Eyeglasses, The ability of a segment of a glass sphere to magnify whatever is placed before it was known around the year 1000, when the spherical segment was called a reading stone, essentially what today we might term a frameless magnifying glass or plain glass paperweight.
    3. Under consideration, judgment, authority of (someone).
      The case laid before the panel aroused nothing but ridicule.
      • John Ayliffe (1676-1732)If a suit be begun before an archdeacon...
    4. In store for, in the future of (someone).
    5. In front of, according to a formal system of ordering items.
      In alphabetical order, "cat" comes before "dog", "canine" before feline".
    6. At a higher or greater position in a ranking.
      An entrepreneur puts market share and profit before quality, an amateur intrinsic qualities before economical considerations.
      • Bible, John i. 15He that cometh after me is preferred before me.
      • JohnsonThe eldest son is before the younger in succession.


    • (earlier than in time) by, no later than
    • (in front of in space) ahead of, in front of
    • (in front of according to an ordering system) ahead of


    • (earlier than in time) after, later than
    • (in front of in space) behind
    • (in front of according to an ordering system) after



    1. At an earlier time.
      • 1918, W. B. Maxwell, The Mirror and the Lamp Chapter 12, All this was extraordinarily distasteful to Churchill. It was ugly, gross. Never before had he felt such repulsion when the vicar displayed his characteristic bluntness or coarseness of speech. In the present connexion—or rather as a transition from the subject that started their conversation—such talk had been distressingly out of place.
    2. I've never done this before.
    3. In advance.
    4. At the front end.
      • 1896, Hilaire Belloc, The Bad Child’s Book of Beasts, :When people call this beast to mind,
        They marvel more and more
        At such a little tail behind,
        So LARGE a trunk before.




    1. in advance of the time when
    2. (informal) rather or sooner than


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