[past, pahst]
See more synonyms for past on
  1. gone by or elapsed in time: It was a bad time, but it's all past now.
  2. of, having existed in, or having occurred during a time previous to the present; bygone: the past glories of the Incas.
  3. gone by just before the present time; just passed: during the past year.
  4. ago: six days past.
  5. having formerly been or served as; previous; earlier: three past presidents of the club.
  6. Grammar. designating a tense, or other verb formation or construction, that refers to events or states in time gone by.
  1. the time gone by: He could remember events far back in the past.
  2. the history of a person, nation, etc.: our country's glorious past.
  3. what has existed or has happened at some earlier time: Try to forget the past, now that your troubles are over.
  4. the events, phenomena, conditions, etc., that characterized an earlier historical period: That hat is something out of the past.
  5. an earlier period of a person's life, career, etc., that is thought to be of a shameful or embarrassing nature: When he left prison, he put his past behind him.
  6. Grammar.
    1. the past tense, as he ate, he smoked.
    2. another verb formation or construction with past meaning.
    3. a form in the past tense.
  1. so as to pass by or beyond; by: The troops marched past.
  1. beyond in time; later than; after: past noon; half past six.
  2. beyond in space or position; farther on than: the house just past the church.
  3. in a direction so as to pass by or go beyond: We went past the house by mistake.
  4. beyond in amount, number, etc.: past the maximum age for enlisting in the army.
  5. beyond the reach, scope, influence, or power of: He is past hope of recovery.

Origin of past

1250–1300; Middle English; variant spelling of passed, past participle of pass
Can be confusedpassed past paste Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for past

Contemporary Examples of past

Historical Examples of past

  • He could not avoid contrasting this behaviour with his past preaching.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • But the first words he uttered showed a total unconsciousness of past events.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • Plato perceived that the contemplative maiden was busy with memories of the past.


    Lydia Maria Child

  • I could see she was annoyed and a little worried, because he was past taking notice.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • “I am afraid he is past ransom,” said the youth, shaking his head.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

British Dictionary definitions for past


  1. completed, finished, and no longer in existencepast happiness
  2. denoting or belonging to all or a segment of the time that has elapsed at the present momentthe past history of the world
  3. denoting a specific unit of time that immediately precedes the present onethe past month
  4. (prenominal) denoting a person who has held and relinquished an office or position; formera past president
  5. grammar denoting any of various tenses of verbs that are used in describing actions, events, or states that have been begun or completed at the time of utteranceCompare aorist, imperfect (def. 4), perfect (def. 8)
  1. the past the period of time or a segment of it that has elapsedforget the past
  2. the history, experience, or background of a nation, person, etca soldier with a distinguished past
  3. an earlier period of someone's life, esp one that contains events kept secret or regarded as disreputable
  4. grammar
    1. a past tense
    2. a verb in a past tense
  1. at a specified or unspecified time before the present; agothree years past
  2. on or onwardsI greeted him but he just walked past
  1. beyond in timeit's past midnight
  2. beyond in place or positionthe library is past the church
  3. moving beyond; in a direction that passeshe walked past me
  4. beyond or above the reach, limit, or scope ofhis foolishness is past comprehension
  5. beyond or above in number or amountto count past ten
  6. past it informal unable to perform the tasks one could do when one was younger
  7. not put it past someone to consider someone capable of (the action specified)

Word Origin for past

C14: from passed, past participle of pass


The past participle of pass is sometimes wrongly spelt past: the time for recriminations has passed (not past)
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 past

c.1300, "done with, over," from past participle of passen "go by" (see pass (v.)). Past participle is recorded from 1798; past tense from 1813.


"times gone by," 1580s, from past (adj.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with past


In addition to the idioms beginning with past

  • past master
  • past one's prime

also see:

  • live in (the past)
  • not put something past someone
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.