or pret·er·ite

[ pret-er-it ]
/ ˈprɛt ər ɪt /

noun Grammar.

a preterit tense.
a verb form in this tense.


Grammar. noting a past action or state.
Archaic. bygone; past.

Nearby words

  1. pretensive,
  2. pretentious,
  3. preter-,
  4. preterhuman,
  5. preterist,
  6. preterite,
  7. preterition,
  8. preteritive,
  9. preterlegal,
  10. preterm

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 Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for preterite

British Dictionary definitions for preterite


US preterit



a tense of verbs used to relate past action, formed in English by inflection of the verb, as jumped, swam
a verb in this tense


denoting this tense

Word Origin for preterite

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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper