Definition of precedent noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary



    BrE BrE//ˈpresɪdənt//
    ; NAmE NAmE//ˈpresɪdənt//
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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
  4. Word Originlate Middle English: from Old French, literally ‘preceding’.Extra examples Overturning a legal precedent is no easy matter. The achievements of this period were without precedent in history. The judge based his decision on precedents set during the Middle Ages. The ruling does not set a binding precedent. There are many literary precedents for this strategy. There is a strong precedent for such a strategy. There is ample precedent for this tactic. There is no obvious precedent for this law. There was a federal court precedent for this. This case could could serve as a precedent for others against the tobacco companies. This lowering of standards sets a dangerous precedent for future developments. This would have set a dangerous new precedent. The decision of the local authority was based on historical precedent.
See the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary entry: precedent