From Middle English fore-, from Old English fōr(e)-, from Proto-Germanic *fura-, *furai- (“before, in front of, for”), from Proto-Indo-European *per-, *pr- (“before, formerly; through, throughout”). Akin to Old Saxon and Old High German fora-, Gothic 𐍆𐌰𐌿𐍂𐌰- (faura-) (see 𐍆𐌰𐌿𐍂𐌰 (faura)), Dutch voor- (“fore-”).
- Positioned at or near the front
- Before; ahead or in front of.
- Occurring beforehand; earlier; prior to
Some terms prefixed with for- (“far, very”) have alternative spellings beginning with fore-, though they do not derive from fore- (they do not mean “before”); examples include foreshame, foreslack, foreslow. Conversely, some terms prefixed with fore- have alternative spellings beginning with for-, such as forbear; the form with fore- is usually preferred to avoid ambiguity, with the conspicuous exception of forward/forwards. In some cases analogous words with both prefixes are found, as in forego (“go before”) vs. forgo (“do without”), forebear (“ancestor”) vs. forbear (“restrain oneself”), and forespeak (“speak before, foretell”) vs. forspeak (“speak ill of; curse; charm, bewitch”). The prefixes might be distantly related (from Proto-Indo-European), but are distinct in English.
- Before, in front of, pro-
- first, prime, occupying a prominent position
- fōreseld "first seat"
- very, supremely, foremost