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[pri-kur-ser, pree-kur-] /prɪˈkɜr sər, ˈpri kɜr-/
a person or thing that precedes, as in a job, a method, etc.; predecessor.
a person, animal, or thing that goes before and indicates the approach of someone or something else; harbinger:
The first robin is a precursor of spring.
Chemistry, Biochemistry. a chemical that is transformed into another compound, as in the course of a chemical reaction, and therefore precedes that compound in the synthetic pathway:
Cholesterol is a precursor of testosterone.
Biology. a cell or tissue that gives rise to a variant, specialized, or more mature form.
Origin of precursor
late Middle English
1375-1425; late Middle English < Latin praecursor forerunner. See pre-, cursor
1. forerunner. 2. herald. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for precursors
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • For this reason I shall spend little time on the famous theories of the origins of the Greek Romances and on their precursors.

    Essays on the Greek Romances Elizabeth Hazelton Haight
  • I only maintain that for me these two things are invariably the precursors of misfortune.

    Seen and Unseen E. Katharine Bates
  • They are the precursors in the great army of destruction, and often finish the dreadful work themselves.

  • In all these signs Costal recognised the precursors of a storm.

    The Tiger Hunter Mayne Reid
  • These two pursuits have thus in a manner been the pioneers and precursors of civilization.

    Astoria Washington Irving
  • Marlo and Rodbertus are sometimes spoken of as the precursors of German socialism.

  • It is for this reason that I have made use of the first chapter to say a few words on the precursors of this movement.

  • There is much to be learned from the precursors I have mentioned.

    Irradiations; Sand and Spray John Gould Fletcher
British Dictionary definitions for precursors


a person or thing that precedes and shows or announces someone or something to come; harbinger
a predecessor or forerunner
a chemical substance that gives rise to another more important substance
Word Origin
C16: from Latin praecursor one who runs in front, from praecurrere, from prae in front + currere to run
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 precursors



early 15c., from Middle French precurseur and directly from Latin praecursor "forerunner," agent noun from past participle stem of praecurrere, from prae "before" (see pre-) + currere "to run" (see current (adj.)). Related: Precursory.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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precursors in Medicine

precursor pre·cur·sor (prĭ-kûr'sər, prē'kûr'sər)

  1. One that precedes and indicates something to come.

  2. One that precedes another; a forerunner or predecessor.

  3. A biochemical substance, such as an intermediate compound in a chain of enzymatic reactions, that gives rise to a more stable or definitive product.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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