What does precedent mean?

Definitions for precedent
ˈprɛs ɪ dənt; prɪˈsid nt, ˈprɛs ɪ dəntprece·dent

This dictionary definitions page includes all the possible meanings, example usage and translations of the word precedent.

Princeton's WordNet

  1. precedent, case in pointnoun

    an example that is used to justify similar occurrences at a later time

  2. case law, precedent, common lawnoun

    (civil law) a law established by following earlier judicial decisions

  3. common law, case law, precedentnoun

    a system of jurisprudence based on judicial precedents rather than statutory laws

    "common law originated in the unwritten laws of England and was later applied in the United States"

  4. precedentadjective

    a subject mentioned earlier (preceding in time)

  5. precedentadjective

    preceding in time, order, or significance


  1. precedentnoun

    An act in the past which may be used as an example to help decide the outcome of similar instances in the future.

  2. precedentnoun

    A decided case which is cited or used as an example to justify a judgment in a subsequent case.

  3. precedentnoun

    The aforementioned (thing).

  4. precedentnoun

    The previous version.

  5. precedentverb

    To provide precedents for.

  6. precedentverb

    To be a precedent for.

  7. precedentadjective

    Happening or taking place earlier in time; previous or preceding.

Samuel Johnson's Dictionary

  1. Precedentadjective

    Former; going before.

    Etymology: precedent, Fr. præcedens, Lat.

    Do it at once,
    Or thy precedent services are all
    But accidents unpurpos’d. William Shakespeare, Ant. and Cleop.

    Our own precedent passions do instruct us.
    What levity’s in youth. William Shakespeare, Timon of Athens.

    When you work by the imagination of another, it is necessary that he, by whom you work, have a precedent opinion of you, that you can do strange things. Francis Bacon.

    Hippocrates, in his prognosticks, doth made good observations of the diseases that ensue upon the nature of the precedent four seasons of the year. Francis Bacon.

    The world, or any part thereof, could not be precedent to the creation of man. Matthew Hale, Origin of Mankind.

    Truths, absolutely necessary to salvation, are so clearly revealed, that we cannot err in them, unless we be notoriously wanting to ourselves; herein the fault of the judgment is resolved into a precedent default in the will. South.

  2. Precedentnoun

    Any thing that is a rule or example to future times; any thing done before of the same kind.

    Examples for cases can but direct as precedents only. Richard Hooker.

    Eleven hours I’ve spent to write it over,
    The precedent was full as long a doing. William Shakespeare.

    A reason mighty, strong and effectual,
    A pattern, precedent and lively warrant
    For me, most wretched, to perform the like. William Shakespeare.

    No pow’r in Venice
    Can alter a decree established:
    ’Twill be recorded for a precedent;
    And many an errour, by the same example,
    Will rush into the state. William Shakespeare, Merch. of Venice.

    God, in the administration of his justice, is not tied to precedents, and we cannot argue, that the providences of God towards other nations shall be conformable to his dealings with the people of Israel. John Tillotson, Sermons.

    Such precedents are numberless; we draw
    Our right from custom; custom is a law. George Granville.


  1. Precedent

    A precedent is a principle or rule established in a previous legal case that is either binding on or persuasive for a court or other tribunal when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts. Common-law legal systems place great value on deciding cases according to consistent principled rules, so that similar facts will yield similar and predictable outcomes, and observance of precedent is the mechanism by which that goal is attained. The principle by which judges are bound to precedents is known as stare decisis (a Latin phrase with the literal meaning of "to stand in the-things-that-have-been-decided"). Common-law precedent is a third kind of law, on equal footing with statutory law (that is, statutes and codes enacted by legislative bodies) and subordinate legislation (that is, regulations promulgated by executive branch agencies, in the form of delegated legislation) in UK parlance – or regulatory law (in US parlance). Case law, in common-law jurisdictions, is the set of decisions of adjudicatory tribunals or other rulings that can be cited as precedent. In most countries, including most European countries, the term is applied to any set of rulings on law, which is guided by previous rulings, for example, previous decisions of a government agency. Essential to the development of case law is the publication and indexing of decisions for use by lawyers, courts, and the general public, in the form of law reports. While all decisions are precedent (though at varying levels of authority as discussed throughout this article), some become "leading cases" or "landmark decisions" that are cited especially often.


  1. precedent

    A precedent is a legal case or decision that serves as a guide or authority for future cases with similar circumstances or issues. It establishes a principle or rule that is binding and should be followed by lower courts when deciding similar cases. Precedents help ensure a consistent interpretation and application of the law over time.

Webster Dictionary

  1. Precedentadjective

    going before; anterior; preceding; antecedent; as, precedent services

  2. Precedentnoun

    something done or said that may serve as an example to authorize a subsequent act of the same kind; an authoritative example

  3. Precedentnoun

    a preceding circumstance or condition; an antecedent; hence, a prognostic; a token; a sign

  4. Precedentnoun

    a rough draught of a writing which precedes a finished copy

  5. Precedentnoun

    a judicial decision which serves as a rule for future determinations in similar or analogous cases; an authority to be followed in courts of justice; forms of proceeding to be followed in similar cases

  6. Etymology: [L. praecedens, -entis, p. pr. of praecedere: cf. F. prcdent. See Precede.]


  1. Precedent

    In common law legal systems, a precedent or authority is a principle or rule established in a previous legal case that is either binding on or persuasive for a court or other tribunal when deciding subsequent cases with similar issues or facts. The general principle in common law legal systems is that similar cases should be decided so as to give similar and predictable outcomes, and the principle of precedent is the mechanism by which that goal is attained. Black's Law Dictionary defines "precedent" as a "rule of law established for the first time by a court for a particular type of case and thereafter referred to in deciding similar cases." Common law precedent is a third kind of law, on equal footing with statutory law, and regulatory law. Stare decisis is a legal principle by which judges are obliged to respect the precedent established by prior decisions. The words originate from the phrasing of the principle in the Latin maxim Stare decisis et non quieta movere: "to stand by decisions and not disturb the undisturbed." In a legal context, this is understood to mean that courts should generally abide by precedent and not disturb settled matters.

Military Dictionary and Gazetteer

  1. precedent

    Any act which can be interpreted into an example for future times, is called a precedent. Persons in high office are extremely scrupulous with respect to precedents, especially in military matters.

Matched Categories

British National Corpus

  1. Nouns Frequency

    Rank popularity for the word 'precedent' in Nouns Frequency: #2735

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  1. Chaldean Numerology

    The numerical value of precedent in Chaldean Numerology is: 5

  2. Pythagorean Numerology

    The numerical value of precedent in Pythagorean Numerology is: 9

Examples of precedent in a Sentence

  1. Brexit Secretary Steve Barclay:

    The speaker himself has pointed to possible solutions, he himself has said in earlier rulings we should not be bound by precedent, you can have the same motion but where the circumstances have changed.

  2. Konrad Szymanski:

    Poland has a major interest in preventing any British EU exit. We are ready to support British demands as regards changes to their treaty obligations and possibly also changes to the European Union's treaty architecture, we want Britain to stay in the EU... The EU's strength comes first and foremost from its scale. It would make a bad precedent to create a smaller union. That would mean the weakening of Europe's position.

  3. Conner Alford:

    If the federal law violates the Second Amendment by taking firearms, then it is not going to take precedent over state law, it does become the state's job to step in ... simply to protect the rule of law.

  4. Shelbi Day:

    We know our families are worried. Frankly, we are, too. The court's willingness to overturn almost 50 years of Supreme Court precedent is truly alarming -- and the decision contains language that signals looming threats to other freedoms, like marriage, that are fundamental not only to LGBTQ + people but to everyone.

  5. Adam Schiff of California:

    This is just the president ignoring the rule of law, ignoring decades of precedent and policy, this is exactly what we feared about Whitaker's appointment, that Matt Whitaker was picked not because Matt Whitaker was qualified for the job -- Matt Whitaker really isn't -- but Matt Whitaker was picked because Matt Whitaker was auditioning on TV talking down the Mueller investigation, talking about Matt Whitaker could -- how we could privately cripple the Mueller investigation.

Popularity rank by frequency of use


Translations for precedent

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"precedent." Definitions.net. STANDS4 LLC, 2024. Web. 24 Jul 2024. <https://www.definitions.net/definition/precedent>.

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    be hungry; go without food
    A elate
    B transpire
    C abide
    D famish

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