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Middle English ancestre, auncestre, ancessour; the first forms from Old French ancestre (modern French ancêtre), from the Latin nominative antecessor one who goes before; the last form from Old French ancessor, from Latin accusative antecessorem, from antecedo (to go before); ante (before) + cedo (to go). See cede, and compare with antecessor.


  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈæn.sɛs.tɚ/, /ˈæn.sɛs.toɹ/


ancestor (plural ancestors)

  1. One from whom a person is descended, whether on the father's or mother's side, at any distance of time; a progenitor; a forefather.
    • 2013 July 20, “Old soldiers?”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8845:
      Whether modern, industrial man is less or more warlike than his hunter-gatherer ancestors is impossible to determine. The machine gun is so much more lethal than the bow and arrow that comparisons are meaningless.
  2. An earlier type; a progenitor
    This fossil animal is regarded as the ancestor of the horse.
  3. (law) One from whom an estate has descended;—the correlative of heir.
  4. (figuratively) One who had the same role or function in former times.
    • 2011 October 1, Saj Chowdhury, “Wolverhampton 1-2 Newcastle”, in BBC Sport:
      The Magpies are unbeaten and enjoying their best run since 1994, although few would have thought the class of 2011 would come close to emulating their ancestors.

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