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From Middle French précédence (the state of preceding, anteriority).

Morphologically precede +‎ -ence.


  • (file)
  • IPA(key): /ˈpɹɛsɪd(ə)ns/, /pɹɪˈsiːd(ə)ns/, (chiefly AU and NZ) /ˈpɹiːsɪd(ə)ns/


precedence (countable and uncountable, plural precedences)

  1. The state of preceding in importance or priority.
    Family takes precedence over work, in an emergency.
    • 1674, John Milton, Paradise Lost, Book II, lines 30–35:
      [] where there is then no good / For which to strive, no strife can grow up there / From faction; for none sure will claim in hell / Precedence, none, whose portion is so small / Of present pain, that with ambitious mind / Will covet more.
    • 1885, Richard Burton, The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night[1], volume 1, page x:
      I wrote to [] Mr. Payne, who was wholly unconscious that we were engaged on the same work, and freely offered him precedence and possession of the field till no longer wanted.
    • 1922, Sinclair Lewis, “Chapter VI - III”, in Babbitt[2], New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., pages 74–75:
      In the city of Zenith, in the barbarous twentieth century, a family's motor indicated its social rank as precisely as the grades of the peerage determined the rank of an English family—indeed, more precisely, considering the opinion of old county families upon newly created brewery barons and woolen-mill viscounts. The details of precedence were never officially determined.
    • 1936, Freya Stark, chapter II, in The Southern Gates of Arabia: A Journey in the Hadhramaut[3], New York: Dutton, page 28:
      he saw to my twelve packages on one hand while on the other he dealt with the Emir of the Sea, the harbour master, who in a green gown and yellow turban, was demanding precedence of some sort.
    • 1938, Xavier Herbert, chapter X, in Capricornia[4], New York: D. Appleton-Century, published 1943, page 163:
      The orderlies, only too well aware of the niceties of the colour-conscious system that prevailed, debated, then sent one of their number to ask the matron what should be done. The matron said that Cho must give precedence. He was laid on the concrete floor.
    • 1971, Chinua Achebe, “These Gods are Children”, in Collected Poems, New York: Random House, published 2004, page 58:
      [] A fool alone will / contest the precedence of ancestors / and gods; the wise wisely / sing them grandiloquent lullabies / knowing they are children / those omnipotent deities.
    • 1986 June 6, Richard Feynman, “Personal observations on the reliability of the Shuttle”, in Presidential Commission on the Space Shuttle Challenger Accident, Report to the President:
      For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.
    • 2014, Janet Davies, chapter 5, in The Welsh Language: A History, Cardiff: University of Wales Press, pages 61–2:
      The provincial eisteddfodau, with their reliance on upper-class patronage, tended to give precedence to English, but the smaller ones were conducted entirely in Welsh.
    • 2020 December 2, Philip Haigh, “A winter of discontent caused by threat of union action”, in Rail, page 63:
      The memorandum of understanding between the Rail Accident Investigation Branch, the Office of Rail and Road and the police states: "In the absence of a clear indication that serious criminality has caused the accident, RAIB will normally have precedence in respect of the investigation and will assume lead responsibility for the investigation."
  2. Precedent.
    • 1934, Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading, London: Faber & Faber, published 1991, page 142:
      Verses of probably no literary value, but illustrating a kind of rhythm, a melodic innovation that you will not find in Chaucer, though there is ample precedence in Provence
    • 1991 December 3, Hansard[5]:
      [] the intention certainly is that all parts of the amendment should cover comparable bodies in Scotland: There is perfectly good precedence for this in Part I of the Bill []
    • 2004, Paul Jackson, chapter 3, in One of the Boys: Homosexuality in the Military during World War II, Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, page 127:
      If such cases did exist, they seem not to have been committed to paper. Psychiatrists, in such circumstances, may have followed the precedence of their spiritual forebears—religious confessors—in respecting the privacy of their patients.
    • 2010 June 15, Keith Van, “UBC faculty union loses, students win”, in Maclean's[6]:
      The ruling in favour of UBC also sets precedence on the matter of bicameral governance for universities and colleges.

Usage notes[edit]

  • The more important entity is said to take precedence over (or, in older texts, take precedence of) the less important.


Derived terms[edit]


See also[edit]