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before Meaning, Definition & Usage

  1. adverb earlier in time; previously
    • I had known her before
    • as I said before
    • he called me the day before but your call had come even earlier
    • her parents had died four years earlier
    • I mentioned that problem earlier
  2. adverb at or in the front
    in front; ahead.
    • I see the lights of a town ahead
    • the road ahead is foggy
    • staring straight ahead
    • we couldn't see over the heads of the people in front
    • with the cross of Jesus marching on before

Be*fore" preposition
OE. beforen, biforen, before, AS. beforan; pref. be- + foran, fore, before. See Be-, and Fore.
  1. In front of; preceding in space; ahead of; as, to stand before the fire; before the house.
    His angel, who shall go Before them in a cloud and pillar of fire. Milton.
  2. Preceding in time; earlier than; previously to; anterior to the time when; -- sometimes with the additional idea of purpose; in order that.
    Before Abraham was, I am. John viii. 58.
    Before this treatise can become of use, two points are necessary. Swift.
    ✍ Formerly before, in this sense, was followed by that. "Before that Philip called thee . . . I saw thee." John i. 48.
  3. An advance of; farther onward, in place or time.
    The golden age . . . is before us. Carlyle.
  4. Prior or preceding in dignity, order, rank, right, or worth; rather than.
    He that cometh after me is preferred before me. John i. 15.
    The eldest son is before the younger in succession. Johnson.
  5. In presence or sight of; face to face with; facing.
    Abraham bowed down himself before the people. Gen. xxiii. 12.
    Wherewith shall I come before the Lord? Micah vi. 6.
  6. Under the cognizance or jurisdiction of.
    If a suit be begun before an archdeacon. Ayliffe.
  7. Open for; free of access to; in the power of.
    The world was all before them where to choose. Milton.
Be*fore" adverb
  1. On the fore part; in front, or in the direction of the front; -- opposed to in the rear.
    The battle was before and behind. 2 Chron. xiii. 14.
  2. In advance. "I come before to tell you." Shak.
  3. In time past; previously; already.
    You tell me, mother, what I knew before. Dryden.
  4. Earlier; sooner than; until then.
    When the butt is out, we will drink water; not a drop before. Shak.
    Before is often used in self-explaining compounds; as, before-cited, before-mentioned; beforesaid.

Webster 1913