1. A person from whom one is descended, especially if more remote than a grandparent; a forebear.
2. A forerunner or predecessor.
3. Law The person from whom an estate has been inherited.
4. Biology The actual or hypothetical organism or stock from which later kinds evolved.
[Middle English auncestre, from Old French, from Latin antecessor, predecessor, from antecessus, past participle of antecēdere, to precede : ante-, ante- + cēdere, to go; see ked- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Synonyms: ancestor, forebear, forefather, progenitor
These nouns denote a person from whom one is descended: a chart showing the genealogy of her ancestors; land once owned by his forebears; a cemetery where some of my forefathers are buried; descended from illustrious progenitors.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2022 by HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.