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  1. preceding in time; prior or earlier: during a former stage in the proceedings.
  2. past, long past, or ancient: in former times.
  3. preceding in order; being the first of two: Our former manufacturing process was too costly.
  4. being the first mentioned of two (distinguished from latter): The former suggestion was preferred to the latter.
  5. having once, or previously, been; erstwhile: a former president.
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Origin of former1

1125–75; Middle English, equivalent to forme (Old English forma first) + -er -er4. Cf. foremost
Can be confusedformer later latter


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  1. a person or thing that forms or serves to form.
  2. a pupil in a particular form or grade, especially in a British secondary school: fifth formers.
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Origin of former2

First recorded in 1300–50, former is from the Middle English word fourmer. See form, -er1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for former

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • "No, sir," said Robert, looking boldly in the face of his former employer.

    Brave and Bold

    Horatio Alger

  • Hunger and cold seemed to have driven them from their former homes.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • My former suspicions that Mr. Giles must have been in this neighbourhood were now confirmed.

  • The former is engaged in commerce and the latter is the popular member for Leeds.

    The Grand Old Man

    Richard B. Cook

  • I have another letter from Mr. Lovelace, although I had not answered his former.

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson

British Dictionary definitions for former


adjective (prenominal)
  1. belonging to or occurring in an earlier timeformer glory
  2. having been at a previous timea former colleague
  3. denoting the first or first mentioned of twoin the former case
  4. near the beginning
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  1. the former the first or first mentioned of two: distinguished from latter
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  1. a person or thing that forms or shapes
  2. electrical engineering a tool for giving a coil or winding the required shape, sometimes consisting of a frame on which the wire can be wound, the frame then being removed
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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 former


"earlier in time," mid-12c., comparative of forme "first," patterned on formest "foremost" (see foremost). An unusual case of a comparative formed from a superlative (the -m- is a superlative element).

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"one who gives form," mid-14c., agent noun from form (v.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper