from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • preposition Used to indicate the object, aim, or purpose of an action or activity.
  • preposition Used to indicate a destination.
  • preposition Used to indicate the object of a desire, intention, or perception.
  • preposition Used to indicate the recipient or beneficiary of an action.
  • preposition On behalf of.
  • preposition In favor of.
  • preposition In place of.
  • preposition Used to indicate equivalence or equality.
  • preposition Used to indicate correlation or correspondence.
  • preposition Used to indicate amount, extent, or duration.
  • preposition Used to indicate a specific time.
  • preposition Used to indicate a number of attempts.
  • preposition As being.
  • preposition Used to indicate an actual or implied listing or choosing.
  • preposition As a result of; because of.
  • preposition Used to indicate appropriateness or suitability.
  • preposition Notwithstanding; despite.
  • preposition As regards; concerning.
  • preposition Considering the nature or usual character of.
  • preposition In honor of.
  • conjunction Because; since.
  • adverb Because of this; for this reason.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • A prefix of Latin origin, in forclose (= foreclose), forfeit, and for-judge (which see).
  • A form of fore-, in forward, forward, forgo.
  • An abbreviation of foreign: as, for. sec., foreign secretary.
  • An inseparable prefix in words of Middle English and Anglo-Saxon origin, formerly attachable at will to any verb admitting of the qualification conveyed by this prefix, but no longer used or felt as a living formative.
  • Before.
  • In time.
  • In order or degree.
  • In the direction of; toward; with the view of reaching.
  • Expressing inclination, tendency, or bent: as, an itch for scribbling; a taste for art; a love for drink.
  • In quest of; with a view to the coming or attainment of; in order to obtain or attain to; as expecting or seeking: as, waiting for the morning; to send for persons and papers; to write for money or for fame.
  • In place of; instead of; in consideration of: as, to pay a dollar for a thing; two for five cents.
  • As an offset to; as offsetting; corresponding to: as, to give blow for blow.
  • In the place and behalf of: as, he acted as attorney for another.
  • In the interest of; with a view to the use, benefit, comfort, convenience, etc., of: expressing purpose or object: as, the earth was made for man; to provide for a family.
  • On account of; because of; with regard to: as, to fear for one's life.
  • In favor of; on the side of: as, to vote for a person or a measure; I am for peace.
  • With reference to the needs, purposes, or uses of: as, salt is good for cattle; skins are used for rugs.
  • In the character of; as; as being: as, to be taken for a thief; he was left for dead on the field.
  • Because or by reason of; as affected or influenced by: as, he cried out for anguish; but for me he would have gone.
  • By the want of; in the absence or insufficiency of: as, to be cramped for space; to be straitened for means.
  • To the extent, number, quantity, or amount of: as, he is liable for the whole sum.


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

[Middle English, from Old English; see per in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English for, from Old English for ("for, on account of, for the sake of, through, because of, owing to, from, by reason of, as to, in order to"), from Proto-Germanic *furi (“for”), from Proto-Indo-European *peri- (“around”). Cognate with West Frisian for, foar ("for"), Dutch voor ("for"), German für ("for"), Danish for ("for"), Swedish för ("for"), Norwegian for ("for"), Icelandic fyrir ("for"), Latin per ("by, through, for, by means of"), Ancient Greek περί (peri, "for, about, toward"), Lithuanian per ("by, through, during"), Sanskrit परि (pári, "over, around").


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  • ... but he was not a pawn on any chessboard of Mr Penicuik's making; and, for he was a gamester, he would have forgone every penny of that considerable fortune rather than have obeyed such a summons as he had received.

    —Georgette Heyer, Cotillion, ch. 12

    A highly unusual instance of a phrase beginning with causal for preceding its main clause. It is probably only possible here (to the questionable extent that it is possible) because it's a supplement inside an expanded clause, namely and he would have forgone... We could perhaps insert this supplement at other non-initial points in the clause too:

    and he would, for he was a gamester, have forgone...

    That is, although it appears to wholly precede the non-expanded clause he would have forgone..., its appearance is actually licensed by its being embedded in a higher clause. Or is it? Could we, could Georgette Heyer, with no more than the same oddness or archaism of phrasing, place it initially in an independent sentence?

    For he was a gamester, he would have forgone...

    No, I don't think so. The embedded version rates a '?' from me, the initial one '*'. It's not at all grammatical in my dialect; Heyer's original is merely surprising and odd.

    The CGEL discusses various evidence about whether this causal for is a coordinator (like and, but, or, nor) or a preposition (like because, since), and comes down on the side of a preposition. (The traditional category 'conjunction' is not used by CGEL.)

    June 23, 2010