Did you know?

Click any word in a definition or example to find the entry for that word

before

 - definition
 
 
 
Close

What are red words?

90% of the time, speakers of English use just 7,500 words in speech and writing. These words appear in red, and are graded with stars. One-star words are frequent, two-star words are more frequent, and three-star words are the most frequent.

Close

Thesaurus

The thesaurus of synonyms and related words is fully integrated into the dictionary entries. Click on the T button in an entry to review the synonyms and related words for that meaning.

more
adverb, conjunction, preposition before pronunciation in American English /bɪˈfɔr/
Before can be used in the following ways:
as a conjunction (connecting two clauses): Think carefully before you choose.
as a preposition (followed by a noun): We'll finish the project before Christmas.
as an adverb (without a following noun): I'd met him once before.
 
  1. 1
    earlier than something
    1. a.
      earlier than a particular time, event, or action

      I went for a run before breakfast.

      The others had gotten there before us.

      Have another drink before you go!

      I joined the police in 1999. Before that I was in the army.

      Two weeks before the election the first reports of the scandal began to appear.

      before doing something:

      You should seek legal advice before signing anything.

    2. b.
      at a time in the past

      Haven't we met somewhere before?

      Never before in modern history has one nation dominated the world so completely.

    3. c.
      used for saying how much time passes until something happens

      Several years went by before I realized that David had lied to me.

  2. 2
    used for saying that something happens that prevents someone from doing what they intended

    Before I could think of a reply she walked away.

  3. 3
    spoken used for warning someone that something bad may happen unless they do something

    Clean up that mess before your father sees it.

    You'd better go away before I lose my temper.

  4. 4
    for someone to consider or watch
    1. a.
      formal used for saying that something or someone is judged or considered by a group of people

      The case went before a grand jury on December 17th.

      The question before us is whether we should allow a foreign government to control our commerce.

    2. b.
      formal used for saying that something is happening where people can watch it

      The team scored an impressive victory before 76,000 fans at Arrowhead Stadium.

  5. 5
    in front of or earlier than someone/something
    1. a.
      if one place is before another place on your trip, you come to it first

      Our house is just before you get to the end of the road.

      A few miles before the border we were stopped at an army checkpoint.

    2. b.
      formal in front of someone or something

      Lawrence knelt before the king.

      Before the temple gate stood a bronze statue of Buddha.

    3. c.
      used for saying that something is placed earlier than something else in a list or series

      The names are in alphabetical order, so "Barnes" should come before "Brown."

  6. 6
    mainly British formal used when saying what will happen in someone's future

    A promising career stretched out before him.

    You're still young – you have your whole life before you.

phrases

creep

used with other nouns to describe the unexpected and often unwanted effects of a particular situation or trend

BuzzWord Article

Open Dictionary

sandwich woman

a woman in middle age who has to juggle caring for teenage children and ageing parents with a career

add a word

Blog

A must for anyone with an interest in the changing face of language. The Macmillan Dictionary blog explores English as it is spoken around the world today.

global English and language change from our blog