American English

Definition of precedent noun from the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary



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  1. 1[countable, uncountable] an official action or decision that has happened in the past and that is seen as an example or a rule to be followed in a similar situation later The ruling set a precedent for future libel cases.
  2. 2[countable, uncountable] a similar action or event that happened earlier historical precedents There is no precedent for a disaster of this scale. Such protests are without precedent in recent history.
  3. 3[uncountable] the way that things have always been done synonym tradition to break with precedent (= to do something in a different way) see also unprecedented
See the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary entry: precedent