• synonyms


or pret·er·ite

noun Grammar.
  1. past(def 12).
  2. a preterit tense.
  3. a verb form in this tense.
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  1. Grammar. noting a past action or state.
  2. Archaic. bygone; past.
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Origin of preterit

1300–50; Middle English < Latin praeteritus past, past participle of praeterīre to go by, equivalent to praeter- preter- + -i-, base of īre to go + -tus past participle suffix; as tense name < Latin (tempus) praeteritum
Related formspret·er·it·ness, noun
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for preterite

Historical Examples

  • May I venture to suggest a pun on the preterite of the verb to speak?

    Notes and Queries, Number 213, November 26, 1853


  • Fit, an Americanism denoting the preterite of the verb to fight.

    The Slang Dictionary

    John Camden Hotten

  • Find the blind, I may remark, are pronounced to rhyme with the preterite of grin.


    Robert Louis Stevenson

  • In several cases this transfer of the preterite has survived.

    The American Language

    Henry L. Mencken

  • The preterite of to sleep (slepan), for example, was slp, and that of to weep was weop.

    The American Language

    Henry L. Mencken

British Dictionary definitions for preterite


US preterit

  1. a tense of verbs used to relate past action, formed in English by inflection of the verb, as jumped, swam
  2. a verb in this tense
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  1. denoting this tense
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Word Origin

C14: from Late Latin praeteritum (tempus) past (time, tense), from Latin praeterīre to go by, from preter- + īre to go
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 preterite


mid-14c., "having to do with the past," from Old French preterit "past tense" (13c.) and directly from Latin praeteritum (as in tempus praeteritum "time past"), past participle of praeterire "to go by, go past," from praeter "beyond, before, above, more than" (see prae-) + itum, past participle of ire "to go" (see ion). Grammar sense is late 14c. The word also was a noun in Middle English meaning "past times" (late 14c.). Related: Preteritive. Preterite-present attested from 1813.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper