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See also: Prior



From Latin prior, comparative of Old Latin *pri (before), from Proto-Indo-European *per- (beyond), *pro (before). Parallel to English former, as comparative form from same Proto-Indo-European root, whence also fore (thence before).



prior (not comparable)

  1. advance; coming before
    I had no prior knowledge you were coming.
  2. former, previous
    His prior residence was smaller than his current one.

Usage notes[edit]

The etymological antonym is ulterior (from Latin) (compare primate/ultimate for “first/last”). This is now no longer used, however, and there is no corresponding antonym. Typically either subsequent or posterior are used, but these form different pairs – precedent/subsequent and anterior/posterior – and are more formal than prior. When an opposing pair is needed, these can be used, or other pairs such as former/latter or previous/next.


Derived terms[edit]



prior (comparative more prior, superlative most prior)

  1. (colloquial) Previously.
    The doctor had known three months prior.



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prior (plural priors)

  1. A high-ranking member of a monastery, usually lower in rank than an abbot.
  2. (US slang) A previous arrest or criminal conviction on someone's record. [from 19th c.]
    • 1939, Raymond Chandler, The Big Sleep, Penguin 2011, p. 53:
      ‘And a little later we get the routine report on his prints from Washington, and he's got a prior back in Indiana, attempted hold-up six years ago.’
  3. (statistics) In Bayesian inference, a prior probability distribution. [from 20th c.]




Comparative of Old Latin *pri (before), from Proto-Indo-European *per- (beyond), *pro (before).


prior comparative, m./f. sing., third declension (superlative: prīmus)

  1. former, prior
  2. previous, original, first
  3. in front
  4. (figuratively) better, superior
  5. (substantive, Medieval Latin) abbot, prior

Usage notes[edit]

  • This adjective has no positive form; rather, it serves as the comparative (prior) and superlative (prīmus) of the preposition prae. (Compare the preposition post, with comparative posterior and superlative postremus).


Number Singular Plural
Case / Gender Masc./Fem. Neuter Masc./Fem. Neuter
nominative prior prius priōrēs priōra
genitive priōris priōris priōrum priōrum
dative priōrī priōrī priōribus priōribus
accusative priōrem prius priōrēs priōra
ablative priōre priōre priōribus priōribus
vocative prior prius priōrēs priōra

Related terms[edit]