The Meaning of Prior: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know the definition of prior? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on the word prior, including its definition, etymology, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What does the word prior mean?

According to Collins English Dictionary and the American Heritage Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language, the word prior means preceding in time, earlier, previous or former. Many things can be “prior” including a prior engagement, prior notice, prior experience, prior approval, a prior arrangement, prior consent, a prior warning and more. This adjective can also mean preferred or preceding in order of importance. Prior has two syllables – pri-or, and the pronunciation of prior is ˈpraɪə-r.

This word can also refer to the person who is the head of a priory or religious house. For example, in an abbey, the priors are the person in charge of an abbey next below the abbot. In the rank of religious orders, the prior is usually at the top, or they can be the deputy head of a monastery.

Many different languages also contain words that mean prior (praɪr). You may notice that many of these translations of prior look similar to one another. These are called cognates, which are formed when two words have the same root or language of origin. This list of translations of prior is provided by Word Sense.

  •  Crimean Tatar: aldı‎, aldında‎
  •  Hebrew: לִפְנֵי‎ (lif’nei)
  •  Portuguese: antes de‎
  •  Greek: πριν‎
  •  Icelandic: áður‎, fyrr‎
  •  Spanish: antes de‎, antes que‎ (+ clause)
  •  Moroccan Arabic: ڭبل‎, قبل‎
  •  Mandarin: 以前‎, 之前‎
  •  Telugu: ముందు‎, ముందుగాల‎
  •  Arabic: قَبْلَ‎
  •  Turkish: önce‎
  •  Malay: sebelum‎
  •  Japanese: 前‎
  •  Persian: قبل‎ (qabl), پیش از‎ (piš az)
  •  Norwegian: før‎
  •  Aromanian: nãnti‎, ninti‎, nãinti‎
  •  Urdu: پہلے‎
  •  Hindi: पहले‎
  •  Vietnamese: trước‎, trước khi‎ (+ clause)
  •  Danish: før‎
  •  Norman: (Guernsey) d’vànt qué‎
  •  Ido: ante‎
  •  Old English: ǣr‎
  •  Catalan: abans de‎, abans que‎
  •  Maltese: qabel‎
  •  Walloon: divant‎, divant ki‎ (+ clause)
  •  Italian: prima‎, innanzi‎
  •  Slovene: pred‎
  •  Bulgarian: преди‎
  •  Ukrainian: до‎, пе́ред‎
  •  Hungarian: előtt‎
  •  Czech: před‎
  •  Interlingua: ante‎
  •  Russian: до‎, пре́жде‎, пе́ред‎
  •  Low German: beför‎, fördem‎, fördęm‎, er‎
  •  Finnish: ennen‎, aikaisemmin‎, varhemmin‎
  •  Dutch: voor‎, voordat‎ (+ clause)
  •  Armenian: առաջ‎, մինչեւ‎
  •  Romanian: înainte‎, anterior‎
  •  Georgian: წინ‎, წინათ‎, -მდე‎
  •  French: avant‎, avant que‎ (+ clause)
  •  Latin: ante‎
  •  Romansch: avant‎
  •  German: bevor‎, vor‎
  •  West Frisian: foar‎
  •  Egyptian Arabic: قبل‎ (‘abl)
  •  Maori: mua‎
  •  Polish: przed‎
  •  Swedish: före‎, innan‎
  •  Venetian: avanti‎
  •  Esperanto: antaŭ‎
  •  Serbo-Croatian: prije‎
  •  Kurdish: berî‎
  •  Lower Sorbian: pśed‎
  •  Albanian: para‎
  •  Thai: ก่อน‎

What are synonyms and antonyms of prior?

There are many different words and phrases that a person can use in place of the word prior. These are called synonyms, which are words and phrases that have the same definition as another given word or phrase. Learning synonyms is a great way to expand your vocabulary and avoid repeating yourself in written or spoken English. The below list of synonyms of prior is provided by Power Thesaurus.

  •  preexistent
  •  quondam
  •  advance
  •  prefatory
  •  monk
  •  erstwhile
  •  previous
  •  in advance
  •  old
  •  antecedent
  •  preparatory
  •  sooner
  •  late
  •  pre-existent
  •  until
  •  friar
  •  once
  •  introductory
  •  preliminary
  •  forward
  •  one-time
  •  foregoing
  •  aforementioned
  •  anterior
  •  last
  •  earlier
  •  abbot
  •  whilom
  •  in front of
  •  early
  •  aforesaid
  •  first
  •  pre-existing
  •  precursory
  •  previously
  •  above
  •  past
  •  formerly
  •  older
  •  before
  •  precedent
  •  precursive
  •  preceding
  •  ahead
  •  front
  •  sometime
  •  beforehand
  •  preceeding
  •  above-mentioned
  •  former

There are also numerous different words that have the opposite meaning of prior. These opposite words are called antonyms, which are another great way to improve your vocabulary. This list of antonyms is also provided by Power Thesaurus

  •  afterward
  •  in back of
  •  beyond
  •  about
  •  under
  •  following
  •  for
  •  at the end
  •  ensuing
  •  further
  •  thereafter
  •  rearward
  •  last
  •  over
  •  front
  •  since
  •  from
  •  below
  •  past
  •  in the rear
  •  subsequent
  •  upon
  •  abaft
  •  with
  •  in spite of
  •  hindmost
  •  by and by
  •  afterwards
  •  hind
  •  once
  •  back
  •  later on
  •  succeeding
  •  aft
  •  after
  •  after that
  •  in search of
  •  before
  •  rear
  •  subsequent to
  •  posterior
  •  late
  •  behind
  •  using
  •  subsequently
  •  next
  •  then
  •  later
  •  time
  •  in pursuit of
  •  in the wake of

What is the origin of the word prior?

According to Etymonline, the word prior has been used as an adjective since c18. In the 18th century, this word came from the c11 Late Latin prior, a comparative of the Old Latin pri meaning before. This comes from the Proto-Indo-European roots prai and prei, from per meaning forward. Prior has been used as a noun from the Middle English priour, from Late Old English and the Medieval Latin prior. 

How can the word prior be used in a sentence?

The word prior can be used in many different sentences in the English language. Using words in a sentence is a great way to memorize their definitions. Below are a few examples of the word prior to get you started. 

Prior to her viral Tweet, Shay was fairly unknown on Twitter. But after her commentary on Facebook from the New York Times garnered tremendous numbers, her view statistics shot up. 

The prior Zelda games were just as fun as the new releases. I can really see a lifetime of playing these games with my children and grandchildren.

Requiring all of this prior background knowledge for different jobs only promotes segregation, racial inequalities and injustices toward people who did not have access to key components of education. Even requiring a car is a privilege many people don’t have.

The English poet used her prior knowledge of idioms to create clever wordplay and commentary on the diplomat.

Overall, the word prior means before or preceding. It can also refer to the superior of a house or group of houses of certain religious orders, or someone who is in charge of a priory, like the chief magistrate in a monastic order in the medieval republic of Florence and other Italian republics, a monastic officer at a monastic community of men or friaries who is in charge of other friars, the abbot of an abbey, . 


  1. Prior synonyms – 668 Words and Phrases for Prior | Power Thesaurus 
  2. Prior antonyms – 220 Opposites of Prior | Thesaurus 
  3. prior: meaning, origin, translation | Word Sense 
  4. Prior definition and meaning | Collins English Dictionary