[pri-kur-ser, pree-kur-]
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  1. a person or thing that precedes, as in a job, a method, etc.; predecessor.
  2. a person, animal, or thing that goes before and indicates the approach of someone or something else; harbinger: The first robin is a precursor of spring.
  3. Chemistry, Biochemistry. a chemical that is transformed into another compound, as in the course of a chemical reaction, and therefore precedes that compound in the synthetic pathway: Cholesterol is a precursor of testosterone.
  4. Biology. a cell or tissue that gives rise to a variant, specialized, or more mature form.

Origin of precursor

1375–1425; late Middle English < Latin praecursor forerunner. See pre-, cursor

Synonyms for precursor

See more synonyms for on Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

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British Dictionary definitions for precursor


  1. a person or thing that precedes and shows or announces someone or something to come; harbinger
  2. a predecessor or forerunner
  3. a chemical substance that gives rise to another more important substance

Word Origin for precursor

C16: from Latin praecursor one who runs in front, from praecurrere, from prae in front + currere to run
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 precursor

early 15c., from Middle French precurseur and directly from Latin praecursor "forerunner," agent noun from past participle stem of praecurrere, from prae "before" (see pre-) + currere "to run" (see current (adj.)). Related: Precursory.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

precursor in Medicine


[prĭ-kûrsər, prēkûr′sər]
  1. One that precedes and indicates something to come.
  2. One that precedes another; a forerunner or predecessor.
  3. A biochemical substance, such as an intermediate compound in a chain of enzymatic reactions, that gives rise to a more stable or definitive product.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.