[bih-fawr, -fohr]
See more synonyms for before on
  1. previous to; earlier or sooner than: Phone me before noon.
  2. in front of; ahead of; in advance of: his shadow advancing before him; She stood before the window.
  3. ahead of; in the future of; awaiting: The golden age is before us.
  4. in preference to; rather than: They would die before surrendering.
  5. in precedence of, as in order or rank: We put freedom before wealth.
  6. in the presence or sight of: to appear before an audience.
  7. less than; until: used in indicating the exact time: It's ten before three.
  8. under the jurisdiction or consideration of: He was summoned before a magistrate.
  9. confronted by; in the face of: Before such wild accusations, he was too stunned to reply.
  10. in the regard of: a crime before God and humanity.
  11. under the overwhelming influence of: bending before the storm.
  12. without figuring or deducting: income before deductions.
  1. in front; in advance; ahead: The king entered with macebearers walking before.
  2. in time preceding; previously: If we'd known before, we'd have let you know.
  3. earlier or sooner: Begin at noon, not before.
  1. previous to the time when: Send the telegram before we go.
  2. 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)

Antonyms for before

13. after, behind. 14. afterward. 15. later. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for before

Contemporary Examples of before

Historical Examples of before

  • Come, before he comes to gibe us for having heeded a moment.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • He had discovered years before that he was sometimes able thus to puzzle her momentarily.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Written years before, at the time of publication he was thirty-three.

    'Tis Sixty Years Since

    Charles Francis Adams

  • Sit here, and we'll talk it over sensibly, before you get ready.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • You have seen the Greek word "phone," which means the voice, before.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

British Dictionary definitions for before


conjunction (subordinating)
  1. earlier than the time when
  2. rather thanhe'll resign before he agrees to it
  1. preceding in space or time; in front of; ahead ofstanding before the altar
  2. when confronted byto withdraw before one's enemies
  3. in the presence ofto be brought before a judge
  4. in preference toto put friendship before money
  1. 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.