before

[bih-fawr, -fohr]
preposition
1.
previous to; earlier or sooner than: Phone me before noon.
2.
in front of; ahead of; in advance of: his shadow advancing before him; She stood before the window.
3.
ahead of; in the future of; awaiting: The golden age is before us.
4.
in preference to; rather than: They would die before surrendering.
5.
in precedence of, as in order or rank: We put freedom before wealth.
6.
in the presence or sight of: to appear before an audience.
7.
less than; until: used in indicating the exact time: It's ten before three.
8.
under the jurisdiction or consideration of: He was summoned before a magistrate.
9.
confronted by; in the face of: Before such wild accusations, he was too stunned to reply.
10.
in the regard of: a crime before God and humanity.
11.
under the overwhelming influence of: bending before the storm.
12.
without figuring or deducting: income before deductions.
adverb
13.
in front; in advance; ahead: The king entered with macebearers walking before.
14.
in time preceding; previously: If we'd known before, we'd have let you know.
15.
earlier or sooner: Begin at noon, not before.
conjunction
16.
previous to the time when: Send the telegram before we go.
17.
sooner than; rather than: I will die before I submit.

Origin:
before 1000; Middle English beforen, Old English beforan, equivalent to be by + foran before (fore fore1 + -an adv. suffix)


13. after, behind. 14. afterward. 15. later.
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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
before (bɪˈfɔː)
 
conj
1.  earlier than the time when
2.  rather than: he'll resign before he agrees to it
 
prep
3.  preceding in space or time; in front of; ahead of: standing before the altar
4.  when confronted by: to withdraw before one's enemies
5.  in the presence of: to be brought before a judge
6.  in preference to: to put friendship before money
 
adv
7.  at an earlier time; previously; beforehand; in front
 
[Old English beforan; related to Old Frisian befara, Old High German bifora]

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Etymonline
Word Origin & History

before
O.E. beforan "before, in front of, in the presence of, in former times," from P.Gmc. *bi- "by" + *forana "from the front," adverbial derivative of *fora (see for). Contrasting before and after in illustrations is from Hogarth (1768).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Idioms & Phrases

before

In addition to the idioms beginning with before, also see cart before the horse; cast pearls before swine; look before you leap.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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Example sentences
It's long been advised that people who get nighttime heartburn eat no later
  than three to four hours before bed.
We plan to pick him up at the airport the day before the first talk.
But thanks to incompetence and corruption, vast shipments of food rotted before
  reaching the shops.
We may be able to get a glimpse of what happened before the big bang, thanks to
  a new study-but only a glimpse.
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