set a precedent

Idioms & Phrases

set a precedent

Establish a usage, tradition, or standard to be followed in the future. For example, He set a precedent by having the chaplain lead the academic procession. The word precedent here signifies a previous instance or legal decision upon which future instances are based, a usage dating from the early 1400s. In British and American law it more specifically refers to a legal decision that may be used as a standard in subsequent cases.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of Idioms by Christine Ammer.
Copyright © 1997. Published by Houghton Mifflin.
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