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[an-ses-ter or, esp. British, -suh-ster] /ˈæn sɛs tər or, esp. British, -sə stər/
a person from whom one is descended; forebear; progenitor.
Biology. the actual or hypothetical form or stock from which an organism has developed or descended.
an object, idea, style, or occurrence serving as a prototype, forerunner, or inspiration to a later one:
The balloon is an ancestor of the modern dirigible.
a person who serves as an influence or model for another; one from whom mental, artistic, spiritual, etc., descent is claimed:
a philosophical ancestor.
Law. a person from whom an heir derives an inheritance.
1250-1300; Middle English ancestre < Old French (with t developed between s and r) < Latin antecessor antecessor
Can be confused
ancestor, descendant. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for ancestors
  • Together, our ancestors made this country what it is today.
  • It follows that our ancestors who believed in the shaman's stick-waving, or whatever he did, would consequently be healthier.
  • To say that our ancestors lived in a zero sum world is to say that they did not cooperate.
  • Whether the ancestors to modern snakes lost their limbs at sea or on land has been the subject of debate for over a century.
  • Of course in probabilistic terms it's more likely that none of the fossils are ancestors of any living creature today.
  • Even if you were not saved by penicillin or some other antibiotic yourself, one of your ancestors likely was.
  • Separating fossil ancestors from collateral relatives is no simple task.
  • One consequence is that many tribes believe they and their ancestors have occupied the same places since the dawn of time.
  • It's been long thought that the ancestors of ostriches, emus, and other flightless birds that once flew were flightless too.
  • In this new position, our innards were not as well supported as they had been in our quadrupedal ancestors.
British Dictionary definitions for ancestors


(often pl) a person from whom another is directly descended, esp someone more distant than a grandparent; forefather
an early type of animal or plant from which a later, usually dissimilar, type has evolved
a person or thing regarded as a forerunner of a later person or thing: the ancestor of the modern camera
Derived Forms
ancestress, noun:feminine
Word Origin
C13: from Old French ancestre, from Late Latin antecēssor one who goes before, from Latin antecēdere; see antecede
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ancestors



c.1300, ancestre, antecessour, from Old French ancestre (12c., Modern French ancêtre), from Late Latin antecessor "predecessor," literally "foregoer," agent noun from past participle stem of Latin antecedere "to precede," from ante- "before" (see ante) + cedere "to go" (see cede). Current form from early 15c. Feminine form ancestress recorded from 1570s.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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