Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adv. Earlier in time: They called me the day before.
  • adv. In front; ahead.
  • prep. Previous to in time; earlier than.
  • prep. In front of.
  • prep. In store for; awaiting: The young man's whole life lies before him.
  • prep. Into or in the presence of: She asked that the visitor be brought before her.
  • prep. Under the consideration or jurisdiction of: The case is now before the court.
  • prep. In a position superior to: The prince is before his brother in the line of succession.
  • conj. In advance of the time when: See me before you leave.
  • conj. Rather than; sooner than: I will die before I will betray my country.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • prep. Earlier than (in time).
  • prep. In front of in space.
  • prep. Under consideration, judgment, authority of (someone).
  • prep. In store for, in the future of (someone).
  • prep. In front of, according to a formal system of ordering items.
  • prep. At a higher or greater position in a subjective ranking.
  • adv. at an earlier time
  • adv. in advance
  • conj. in advance of the time when
  • conj. rather or sooner than

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • prep. In front of; preceding in space; ahead of.
  • prep. Preceding in time; earlier than; previously to; anterior to the time when; -- sometimes with the additional idea of purpose; in order that.
  • prep. An advance of; farther onward, in place or time.
  • prep. Prior or preceding in dignity, order, rank, right, or worth; rather than.
  • prep. In presence or sight of; face to face with; facing.
  • prep. Under the cognizance or jurisdiction of.
  • prep. Open for; free of access to; in the power of.
  • adv. On the fore part; in front, or in the direction of the front; -- opposed to in the rear.
  • adv. In advance.
  • adv. In time past; previously; already.
  • adv. Earlier; sooner than; until then.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • In front; on the anterior or fore side; on the side opposite the back; in a position or at a point in advance; ahead.
  • In time preceding; previously; formerly; already.
  • In front of, in time or position; on the anterior or fore side of; in a position or at a point in advance of: as, a happy future lies before you; before the house; before the fire.
  • In presence of; in sight of; under the cognizance, jurisdiction, or consideration of.
  • In precedence of; in advance of, as regards rank, condition, development, etc.
  • In preference to; rather than.
  • Anterior to in time; previous to: as, I shall return before six o'clock.
  • Under the action, influence, or power of.
  • Figuratively and colloquially, in prosperous circumstances; out of debt or difficulty.
  • Previous to the time when: formerly sometimes followed by that.
  • Sooner than; rather than.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adv. at or in the front
  • adv. earlier in time; previously

Etymologies

Middle English bifore, from Old English beforan; see per1 in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English (adverb and preposition), from Old English beforan, itself from be- + foran 'before' (from fore) (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • What this bill does do, in my opinion, is to cover a looming problem of insurance premiums spiking as the boomers age (ie. attempting to get a handle on a financial crisis *before* it takes down a great number of decent people) and a populist desire to insure and care for a majority of people (this comes before you start pus polling and scaring seniors with lies about Medicare coverage).

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Health Insurance and Pharma Stocks Rise, US Treasuries Sink in Reponse to Obama Care:

  • I started her treatment a month back , I also continue with my insulin, she gave me a greenish herbal powder , that has to sorted into daily dosages twice before meals, along with a tablet Triglucord Forte ..before I visited her I took my blood sugar levels ..

    Archive 2009-07-01

  • My memory does not serve me so as to enable me to state, whether the Acdazeer's visit to Java was before or after the promulgation of the law prohibiting ships with opium and warlike stores entering any of the ports of Netherlands India; but I think it was _before_ that regulation was made public.

    Trade and Travel in the Far East or Recollections of twenty-one years passed in Java, Singapore, Australia and China.

  • Jordan, he instructed them how the ark of the covenant was to go before them and a space to be left between them and it, so that they might know the way by which they must go, _for they had not passed this way before_.

    Cambridge Essays on Education

  • But before any one settles down into a conclusion that this passage warrants the use of wine and ardent spirits, in our age and country, let him consider that there may have been, as there doubtless were, peculiar reasons, under the Levitical dispensation, for permitting the Jews to partake of what their soul desired _before the Lord_, which would not apply to mankind generally; as was the case in respect to several other things.

    Select Temperance Tracts

  • (A.D. 494) appointed the confession of faith to be made immediately before baptism, _though the renunciations were made some hours before_.

    The Ceremonies of the Holy-Week at Rome

  • The case was tried before a Justice of the Peace, named Basnett, who was satisfied that Mitchum was Davis's slave, and had left his service _nineteen years before_.

    The Fugitive Slave Law and Its Victims Anti-Slavery Tracts No. 18

  • The president answered the modest doctor with as much politeness as presence of mind: he put the figure 1 before the number 100, and wrote (1100) "_They are ten times what they were before_."

    The Mirror of Literature, Amusement, and Instruction Volume 17, No. 469, January 1, 1831

  • _Scene as before, Time and situation as before, Company as before_.

    Punch, or the London Charivari, Volume 100, June 6, 1891

  • FELLOW-CITIZENS of the United States: In compliance with a custom as old as the Government itself, I appear before you to address you briefly, and to take in your presence the oath prescribed by the Constitution of the United States to be taken by the President “before he enters on the execution of his office.

    Lincoln's First Inaugural Address

Comments

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  • bEfoRE

    July 30, 2009

  • "'Back there is Capatain Marat of the ChronoGuard,' continued Braxton. Marat looked at me with interest. The ChronoGuard were the SpecOps division that took care of Anomalous time Ripplation - my father was one or is one or would be one, depending on how you looked at it.
    'Have we met before? I asked him.
    'Not yet,' he replied."
    - Jasper Fforde, 'Lost In A Good Book'.

    November 24, 2008

  • A contronym: both "in the past" (behind) and standing in front of.

    May 14, 2008