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[n. pres-i-duh nt; adj. pri-seed-nt, pres-i-duh nt] /n. ˈprɛs ɪ dənt; adj. prɪˈsid nt, ˈprɛs ɪ dənt/
Law. a legal decision or form of proceeding serving as an authoritative rule or pattern in future similar or analogous cases.
any act, decision, or case that serves as a guide or justification for subsequent situations.
adjective, precedent
going or coming before; preceding; anterior.
Origin of precedent
1350-1400; (adj.) Middle English < Latin praecēdent- (stem of praecēdēns) present participle of praecēdere to go before, precede (see -ent); (noun) late Middle English, derivative of the adj.
Related forms
precedentless, adjective
nonprecedent, noun
nonprecedent, adjective
quasi-precedent, adjective
Can be confused
precedence, precedents, presidents. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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British Dictionary definitions for precedent


noun (ˈprɛsɪdənt)
(law) a judicial decision that serves as an authority for deciding a later case
an example or instance used to justify later similar occurrences
adjective (prɪˈsiːdənt; ˈprɛsɪdənt)
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 precedent

early 15c., "case which may be taken as a rule in similar cases," from Middle French precedent, noun use of an adjective, from Latin praecedentum (nominative praecedens), present participle of praecedere "go before" (see precede). Meaning "thing or person that goes before another" is attested from mid-15c. As an adjective in English from c.1400. As a verb meaning "to furnish with a precedent" from 1610s, now only in past participle precedented.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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precedent in Culture
precedent [(press-uh-duhnt)]

A previous ruling by a court that influences subsequent decisions in cases with similar issues.

The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition
Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Company.
Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.
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Idioms and Phrases with precedent


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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