[pri-kur-ser, pree-kur-]
a person or thing that precedes, as in a job, a method, etc.; predecessor.
a person, animal, or thing that goes before and indicates the approach of someone or something else; harbinger: The first robin is a precursor of spring.
Chemistry, Biochemistry. a chemical that is transformed into another compound, as in the course of a chemical reaction, and therefore precedes that compound in the synthetic pathway: Cholesterol is a precursor of testosterone.
Biology. a cell or tissue that gives rise to a variant, specialized, or more mature form.

1375–1425; late Middle English < Latin praecursor forerunner. See pre-, cursor

1. forerunner. 2. herald. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
precursor (prɪˈkɜːsə)
1.  a person or thing that precedes and shows or announces someone or something to come; harbinger
2.  a predecessor or forerunner
3.  a chemical substance that gives rise to another more important substance
[C16: from Latin praecursor one who runs in front, from praecurrere, from prae in front + currere to run]

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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Word Origin & History

1504, from L. præcursor "forerunner," from præcursus, pp. of præcurrere, from præ- "before" + currere "to run" (see current).
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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American Heritage
Medical Dictionary

precursor pre·cur·sor (prĭ-kûr'sər, prē'kûr'sər)

  1. One that precedes and indicates something to come.

  2. One that precedes another; a forerunner or predecessor.

  3. A biochemical substance, such as an intermediate compound in a chain of enzymatic reactions, that gives rise to a more stable or definitive product.

The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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Example sentences
Native peoples invented precursors to all these and made huge strides in
  medicine and agriculture.
Most disappointing to scientists was the lack of any precursors.
Their successor has a tougher task: to search for the molecules that are
  precursors to life and for evidence of microbes at work.
While some are simply precursors to actual cars, others showcase a new
  technology, such as a diesel or electric powerplant.
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