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[an-ses-ter or, esp. British, -suh-ster] /ˈæn sɛs tər or, esp. British, -sə stər/
a person from whom one is descended; forebear; progenitor.
Biology. the actual or hypothetical form or stock from which an organism has developed or descended.
an object, idea, style, or occurrence serving as a prototype, forerunner, or inspiration to a later one:
The balloon is an ancestor of the modern dirigible.
a person who serves as an influence or model for another; one from whom mental, artistic, spiritual, etc., descent is claimed:
a philosophical ancestor.
Law. a person from whom an heir derives an inheritance.
Origin of ancestor
1250-1300; Middle English ancestre < Old French (with t developed between s and r) < Latin antecessor antecessor
Can be confused
ancestor, descendant. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for ancestor
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The fate of the ancestor had been typical of that of his descendants.

    The White Company Arthur Conan Doyle
  • An account of one's descent from an ancestor who did not particularly care to trace his own.

    The Devil's Dictionary Ambrose Bierce
  • The ancestor of Pi-Lo nearly destroyed our entire clan by fire.

  • The caterpillar, for example, resembles the worm which is the ancestor of the insects.

    The Sexual Question August Forel
  • An Artaud, their ancestor, had come hither and settled like a pariah in this waste.

British Dictionary definitions for ancestor


(often pl) a person from whom another is directly descended, esp someone more distant than a grandparent; forefather
an early type of animal or plant from which a later, usually dissimilar, type has evolved
a person or thing regarded as a forerunner of a later person or thing: the ancestor of the modern camera
Derived Forms
ancestress, noun:feminine
Word Origin
C13: from Old French ancestre, from Late Latin antecēssor one who goes before, from Latin antecēdere; see antecede
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ancestor

c.1300, ancestre, antecessour, from Old French ancestre (12c., Modern French ancêtre), from Late Latin antecessor "predecessor," literally "foregoer," agent noun from past participle stem of Latin antecedere "to precede," from ante- "before" (see ante) + cedere "to go" (see cede). Current form from early 15c. Feminine form ancestress recorded from 1570s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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