[ noun pres-i-duhnt; adjective pri-seed-nt, pres-i-duhnt ]
/ noun ˈprɛs ɪ dənt; adjective prɪˈsid nt, ˈprɛs ɪ dənt /
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See synonyms for: precedent / precedents on Thesaurus.com


Law. a legal decision or form of proceeding serving as an authoritative rule or pattern in future similar or analogous cases.
any act, decision, or case that serves as a guide or justification for subsequent situations.

adjective pre·ce·dent [pri-seed-nt, pres-i-duhnt] /prɪˈsid nt, ˈprɛs ɪ dənt/

going or coming before; preceding; anterior.



In effect, this quiz will prove whether or not you have the skills to know the difference between “affect” and “effect.”
Question 1 of 7
The rainy weather could not ________ my elated spirits on my graduation day.

Origin of precedent

First recorded in 1350–1400; Middle English (adjective), from Middle French, from Latin praecēdent- (stem of praecēdēns ), present participle of praecēdere “to go in front of, go ahead of”; the noun is from the adjective; see precede, -ent
prec·e·dent·less, adjectivenon·prec·e·dent, nounnon·pre·ced·ent, adjectivequa·si-pre·ced·ent, adjective
precedence, precedents , presidents
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

British Dictionary definitions for precedent


noun (ˈprɛsɪdənt)

law a judicial decision that serves as an authority for deciding a later case
an example or instance used to justify later similar occurrences

adjective (prɪˈsiːdənt, ˈprɛsɪdənt)

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

Cultural definitions for precedent

[ (press-uh-duhnt) ]

A previous ruling by a court that influences subsequent decisions in cases with similar issues.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

Idioms and Phrases with precedent


see set a precedent.

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.
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