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

  • adjective Existing or occurring before something else in time or order; prior.
  • adjective Informal Acting, occurring, or done too soon; premature or hasty.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Going before in time; being or occurring before something else; earlier; antecedent; prior.
  • Previously to; before (previous being used adverbially, and with the preposition to equivalent to a simple preposition, before). Compare prior to, in a like loose use.
  • Synonyms Previous, Preceding, Precedent, Anterior, Prior, Former, Foregoing, Antecedent. All these words have lost their original application to space, and now apply only to that which goes before in time, except anterior, which may apply also to space, as the anterior part of the brain, and preceding, which as a participle still primarily applies to space, but as an adjective generally expresses order in time. Preceding means immediately before; the others may mean the same. Precedent often applies to that which has to go before in order to the existence or validity of that which follows: as, a condition precedent. Prior often means superior by being earlier: as, a prior claim. Anterior is opposed to posterior, prior to subsequent or sub-ordinate, former to latter, foregoing to following, antecedent to subsequent. See preliminary.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Going before in time; being or happening before something else; antecedent; prior
  • adjective (Parliamentary Practice) See under Question, and compare Closure.
  • adjective before; -- often used adverbially for previously.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • adjective prior; occurring before something else, either in time or order.
  • adjective informal premature; occurring too soon.
  • noun informal, UK An existing criminal record

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

  • adjective too soon or too hasty
  • adjective (used especially of persons) of the immediate past
  • adjective just preceding something else in time or order


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

[From Latin praevius, going before : prae-, pre- + via, way; see wegh- in Indo-European roots.]


Help support Wordnik (and make this page ad-free) by adopting the word previous.


  • Both of them have had a long association with Milton Colin had served previously on council in the term previous to the last one.

    Milton Town Council Meetings…day 1 2006

  • At the announcement that Captain Mapes Dale, who was the military instructor at Colby Hall, was approaching, the boys who had attended the academy the term previous fell back in alarm.

    The Rover Boys at Colby Hall or The Struggles of the Young Cadets Edward Stratemeyer 1896

  • This may be wondered at, but the fact of the matter was that Sam, by hard work the term previous, had caught up to Tom, while Dick, because of being away on some business for his father at various times, had dropped a little behind.

    The Rover Boys on the Farm or Last Days at Putnam Hall Edward Stratemeyer 1896

  • Previous year: The term previous year means the income earned during the previous year, which is to be assessed to tax in the assessment year.

    News India's Most Comprehensive Financial Destination 2008

  • From what you described as your previous open-mindedness and your status as someone "hot," I would assume that that you did not cancel the date because there is a possibility that this assignation would not become a relationship.

    Mona Ackerman: Sex At 70 And Why You Should Enjoy It 2008

  • House Republican leaders had expressed opposition through that spring to giving the IMF the money it could use for new bailouts, decrying what they described as previous destabilizing loans to other countries.

    Archive 2006-01-01 Ellen Beth Gill 2006

  • For one term previous to that time Mr. Benedict was city attorney.

    Cleveland Past and Present Its Representative Men Maurice [Unknown role] Joblin

  • She was a small, fussy lady, energetic and very business-like, who complained of what she called previous mismanagement and seemed to avoid friendly relations.

    The Indian Lily and Other Stories Hermann Sudermann 1892

  • Earlier this week, a flier was distributed in Iowa attacking him for what it called his previous infidelities, according to Politico.

    NYT > Home Page By MICHAEL D. SHEAR 2011

  • Earlier this week, a flier was distributed in Iowa attacking him for what it called his previous infidelities, according to Politico.

    NYT > Home Page By MICHAEL D. SHEAR 2011


Log in or sign up to get involved in the conversation. It's quick and easy.

  • A friend of mine has a wonderful phrase "No need to get previous about this." I have no idea where he gets it from, but it is a delightful usage.

    October 23, 2010

  • I don't get it. What's it supposed to mean?

    October 23, 2010

  • never hear it before myself, but i assume: living in the past.. digging up old dirt.. in other words, let bygones be bygones.

    October 23, 2010

  • He uses it roughly in the same context one might use shirty. Like I said, it doesn't make terrible sense, but it enjoys a certain undefinable in me.

    October 23, 2010

  • Ah. Thanks.

    October 23, 2010