adjective pre·ce·dent [pri-seed-nt, pres-i-duhnt] /prɪˈsid nt, ˈprɛs ɪ dənt/
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Origin of precedent
OTHER WORDS FROM precedentprec·e·dent·less, adjectivenon·prec·e·dent, nounnon·pre·ced·ent, adjectivequa·si-pre·ced·ent, adjective
Words nearby precedent
What does precedent mean?
A precedent is an act or decision that serves as a guide for future situations with similar circumstances.
For example, the first U.S. president, George Washington, set a precedent when he limited himself to only two terms as president, and presidents ever since (with the exception of Franklin Delano Roosevelt) have followed that precedent—meaning they have done the same thing.
Precedent is especially used in a legal context, in which it refers to a past court decision or judicial ruling that can be used as a guideline for decisions in similar cases. In this context, precedent often refers collectively to all previous decisions relevant to the case. This sense of the word is used without the articles a or the, as in This ruling was based on precedent.
Typically, lower courts (such as a state trial court or a U.S. district court) will look at decisions made by higher courts (such as a state supreme court or a U.S. court of appeals) to use as judicial precedent. Basing judicial decisions on precedent is intended to make them more objective or impartial due to not being based on a single personal opinion. Still, decisions are not required to be made based on precedent. Judges may break precedent or go against precedent in certain cases. These phrases can also be used outside of a legal context.
In general, when something has never been done or has never happened before, it can be described as without precedent. The word unprecedented means the same thing.
Much less commonly, precedent can be used as an adjective that means the same thing as preceding (which is much more commonly used).
Example: If we make this a holiday, we’ll set a precedent that our employees will expect us to follow every year.
Where does precedent come from?
The first records of the word precedent come from the 1300s. It ultimately comes from the Latin praecēdere, meaning “to go in front of” or “to go ahead of.” The noun sense of precedent is based on its earlier adjective use.
The word precedent starts with the word precede, meaning “to go before,” and precedents always involve things that have come before.
In law, precedent is usually created when several previous cases have resulted in the same decision—though a single decision can set a precedent.
The plural form precedents should not be confused with the noun precedence, which means the right to go before others.
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What are some other forms related to precedent?
- precedentless (adjective)
- nonprecedent (noun, adjective)
- quasiprecedent (adjective)
What are some synonyms for precedent?
What are some words that share a root or word element with precedent?
What are some words that often get used in discussing precedent?
How is precedent used in real life?
Precedent is especially used in the context of court rulings. But it’s also commonly used in a general way.
Alabama passed a virtually identical law that the courts blocked and now is on appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. An appeals court affirmed a lower court's decision to block the Alabama law — based on precedent — but practically begged the Supreme Court to review it. https://t.co/kB4NlY2m3s
— Brendan Kirby (@BrendanKKirby) April 26, 2019
The crown is asking for 12-15 months jail time for Michael Theriault in the assault of Dafonte Miller. Defence lawyer Michael Lacy calls that "completely divorced from legal precedent"
— Lorenda Reddekopp (@CBCLorenda) September 25, 2020
the iron man films set the precedent for marvel movies. without them I guarantee there wouldn't be as much success or hype over mcu
— 𝘳 (@mingivocals) August 18, 2016
Try using precedent!
Is precedent used correctly in the following sentence?
The judge broke with precedent by ruling in a way that contradicted previous decisions.
Example sentences from the Web for precedent
The effort is meant to set a legal precedent for mining on the lunar surface that would allow NASA to one day collect ice, helium or other materials useful to colonies on the moon and, eventually, Mars.NASA wants to buy moon rocks from anyone who can fund their own space trip|Verne Kopytoff|September 10, 2020|Fortune
In the judicial branch, legal precedent still protects officers from the consequences of deadly force with qualified immunity.Kenosha’s looting is a symptom of a decrepit democracy|Aaron Ross Coleman|September 4, 2020|Vox
Some of the other ones, it’s just interesting, the nuance that the court has taken in terms of judicial precedent that they follow.Full Transcript: Sean Spicer on ‘The Carlos Watson Show’|Daniel Malloy|August 26, 2020|Ozy
There is precedent for previous records being dismissed once disproven.Death Valley hits 130° F, the hottest recorded temperature on Earth since 1931|Carolyn Gramling|August 17, 2020|Science News
“While similar to AB 1460, the new CSU policy avoids setting a precedent for future curriculum decisions to be determined by the legislature,” he wrote in an email.Sacramento Report: Ethnic Studies Dispute Pits CSU Against Lawmakers|Sara Libby and Maya Srikrishnan|July 24, 2020|Voice of San Diego
He experimented boldly without much regard for precedent or the status quo.From The Square Deal to The New Deal: The Overlapping Political Identities of TR and FDR|John Avlon|September 9, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Tyner pointed the Hattiesburg race as precedent for having a second election.Could Chris McDaniel Get A Do-Over In The Mississippi Senate Race?|Ben Jacobs|July 10, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Alito opened the door by questioning the “anomalous” Abood precedent, which lets states coerce union members into paying dues.The Conservative Case for Unions After the Harris v. Quinn Decision|James Poulos|July 2, 2014|DAILY BEAST
The precedent this new law (Act 697) sets is alarming, according to its opponents.
But Leonard claims that the reserve could set a precedent for the federal government closing more high-use areas to sport fishing.Republicans: Obama’s Ocean Protection Plan Evidence of ‘Imperial Presidency’|Abigail Golden|June 23, 2014|DAILY BEAST
I have hunted out a precedent for this unceremonious address.Life of Lord Byron, Vol. IV|Thomas Moore
In any event she meant to conquer Powers, and was not without reason, or precedent, in trying to see if blarney would aid threats.The Great Miss Driver|Anthony Hope
The public may also derive considerable advantage from the precedent in the future movement of the Government.A Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents|James D. Richardson
It was a reversion to the old right of election, and to the precedent set in the deposition of Edward II.A Student's History of England, v. 1 (of 3)|Samuel R. Gardiner.
So far from this being the case on this subject, an argument against the bank might be based on precedent.The Papers And Writings Of Abraham Lincoln, Volume Two|Abraham Lincoln
British Dictionary definitions for precedent
adjective (prɪˈsiːdənt, ˈprɛsɪdənt)
Cultural definitions for precedent
A previous ruling by a court that influences subsequent decisions in cases with similar issues.
Idioms and Phrases with precedent
see set a precedent.