[ bih-fawr, -fohr ]
See 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.

  1. ahead of; in the future of; awaiting: The golden age is before us.

  2. in preference to; rather than: They would die before surrendering.

  3. in precedence of, as in order or rank: We put freedom before wealth.

  4. in the presence or sight of: to appear before an audience.

  5. less than; until: used in indicating the exact time: It's ten before three.

  6. under the jurisdiction or consideration of: He was summoned before a magistrate.

  7. confronted by; in the face of: Before such wild accusations, he was too stunned to reply.

  8. in the regard of: a crime before God and humanity.

  9. under the overwhelming influence of: bending before the storm.

  10. 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.

  1. 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

First recorded before 1000; Middle English beforen, Old English beforan, equivalent to be by + foran “before” (fore fore1 + -an adverb suffix)

Opposites for before

Words Nearby before Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use before in a sentence

  • And he was gone, and out of sight on the swift galloping Benito, before Father Gaspara bethought himself.

    Ramona | Helen Hunt Jackson
  • Descending the Alps to the east or south into Piedmont, a new world lies around and before you.

    Glances at Europe | Horace Greeley
  • before Ripperda could unclasp his lips to reply, the stranger had opened the door, and passed through it like a gliding shadow.

  • Louis stood firm, though pale and respectful, before the resentful gaze of Elizabeth.

  • Babylas raised his pale face; he knew what was coming; it had come so many times before.

    St. Martin's Summer | Rafael Sabatini

British Dictionary definitions for before


/ (bɪˈfɔː) /

  1. earlier than the time when

  2. rather than: he'll resign before he agrees to it

  1. preceding in space or time; in front of; ahead of: standing before the altar

  2. when confronted by: to withdraw before one's enemies

  1. in the presence of: to be brought before a judge

  2. in preference to: to put friendship before money

  1. at an earlier time; previously; beforehand; in front

Origin of 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

Other 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.