[ bih-fawr, -fohr ]
/ bɪˈfɔr, -ˈfoʊr /




previous to the time when: Send the telegram before we go.
sooner than; rather than: I will die before I submit.

Origin of before

before 1000; Middle English beforen, Old English beforan, equivalent to be by1 + foran before (fore fore1 + -an adv. suffix) Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for before

British Dictionary definitions for before


/ (bɪˈfɔː) /

conjunction (subordinating)

earlier than the time when
rather thanhe'll resign before he agrees to it



at an earlier time; previously; beforehand; in front

Word Origin for before

Old English beforan; related to Old Frisian befara, Old High German bifora
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

Word Origin and History for before


adv., prep.

Old English beforan "before, in front of, in the presence of, in former times," from Proto-Germanic *bi- "by" + *forana "from the front," adverbial derivative of *fora (see for). Cf. Old Frisian bifara, Old Saxon biforan, Old High German bifora, German bevor. Contrasting before and after in illustrations is from Hogarth (1768). Before the mast in old sailing ships denoting "common sailor," is from the place of their berths, in front of the fore-mast.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with before


In addition to the idioms beginning with before

  • before long
  • before the wind
  • before you can say Jack Robinson
  • before you know it

also see:

  • cart before the horse
  • cast pearls before swine
  • look before you leap
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.