View synonyms for former



[ fawr-mer ]


  1. preceding in time; prior or earlier:

    The first contestants were eliminated during a former stage in the proceedings.

  2. past, long past, or ancient:

    In former times, willow was consumed for pain.

  3. preceding in order; being the first of two:

    Our former manufacturing process was too costly.

    Synonyms: antecedent, foregoing

  4. being the first mentioned of two ( latter ):

    The former suggestion was preferred to the latter one.

  5. having once, or previously, been; erstwhile:

    Every former president receives a lifelong security detail.

    Synonyms: ex-, past


  1. the for·mer, the first mentioned of two ( the latter ):

    There are still economy and business class tickets available, but be sure to book the former if you're on a budget.



[ fawr-mer ]


  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.



/ ˈfɔːmə /


  1. belonging to or occurring in an earlier time

    former glory

  2. having been at a previous time

    a former colleague

  3. denoting the first or first mentioned of two

    in the former case

  4. near the beginning


  1. the former
    the first or first mentioned of two: distinguished from latter



/ ˈfɔːmə /


  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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Word History and Origins

Origin of former1

First recorded in 1125–75; Middle English, equivalent to forme ( Old English forma “first”) + -er -er 4; foremost

Origin of former2

First recorded in 1300–50, former is from the Middle English word fourmer. See form, -er 1
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Example Sentences

Former Red Sox star Curt Schilling says his politics are keeping him out of Cooperstown.

Like many Americans—but few Republican presidential candidates—the former Florida governor has evolved on the issue.

And now, similarly, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee: "Bend over and take it like a prisoner!"

Current and former intelligence officials have said North Korea has long been a priority target for American spies.

Lalo said he reported the kidnapping to his ICE handlers, which was confirmed by a former federal agent familiar with the case.

Without the former quality, knowledge of the past is uninstructive; without the latter, it is deceptive.

The enemy were pursued and annoyed by a few hundred of the citizens under Wooster and Arnold; the former was killed.

The latter trod on the toes of the former, whereupon the former threatened to "kick out of the cabin" the latter.

My husband detests them; on the contrary, I like those carriages, for they tell me of happy—I mean to say, of former times.

There seemed the flavour of some strange authority in her that baffled all approach to the former intimacy.


Related Words

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Former Vs. Latter

What’s the difference between former and latter?

Using the terms former and latter is a somewhat formal way to differentiate between items mentioned in a set or list without actually naming them. Former is used to indicate the first item mentioned, while latter is used to indicate the second item.

Both words can be used as an adjective or a noun. In either case, they are both usually preceded by the.

Here’s an example of an adjective use: When offered a choice between shorter hours and higher pay, most survey respondents chose the former option. 

In this example, the former option refers to shorter hours, because that’s the item that was mentioned first.

Here’s an example of a noun use: I enjoy both vanilla and chocolate ice cream, but I prefer the latter. 

In this example, the latter refers to chocolate ice cream, because that’s the one that was mentioned second.

Remember, using former and latter can sound a bit formal (and might even be confusing to people who aren’t familiar with the terms). A less formal (and potentially clearer) way to rephrase the former of the two examples would be to say When offered a choice between shorter hours and higher pay, most survey respondents chose shorter hours. 

To remember the difference, remember that latter sounds like (and is related to) the word later—so the latter item is the one that was mentioned later.

Former and latter are sometimes both used in the same sequence.

Here’s an example of former and latter used correctly in the same sentence.

Example: The report presented two alternative plans: the former would be easier to implement; the latter would be less expensive.

Want to learn more? Read the full breakdown of the difference between former and latter.

Quiz yourself on former vs. latter!

Should former or latter be used in the following sentence?

The study found that most participants chose the _____ option simply because it was the last thing they heard.