Meaning of “precedent” in the English Dictionary

american-english dictionary

"precedent" in British English

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precedentnoun

uk /ˈpres.ɪ.dənt/ us /ˈpres.ə.dent/

C2 [ C ] an action, situation, or decision that has already happened and can be used as a reason why a similar action or decision should be performed or made:

There are several precedents for promoting people who don't have formal qualifications.
Some politicians fear that agreeing to the concession would set a dangerous precedent.

[ U ] the way that something has been done in the past that therefore shows that it is the correct way:

Would it be breaking with precedent for the bride to make a speech?

[ C ] specialized law a decision about a particular legal case that makes it likely that other similar cases will be decided in the same way:

The judgment on pension rights has established/set a precedent.

More examples

  • I worry about giving into her demands because it then sets a precedent.
  • The court's decision has set a legal precedent.
  • This decision set an important legal precedent for other countries.

(Definition of “precedent” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"precedent" in American English

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precedentnoun [ C/U ]

us /ˈpres·ɪ·dənt/

a previous action, situation, or decision that can be used as a reason or example for a similar action or decision at a later time:

[ C ] Conditions have changed enormously, and the past is not much of a precedent.
[ U ] Precedent indicated that a change would take place sooner rather than later.

(Definition of “precedent” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)

"precedent" in Business English

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precedentnoun [ C ]

uk /ˈpresɪdənt/ us

LAW a previous action or decision that can be used as a reason for allowing something else:

The ruling can serve as a precedent to challenge other similar cases.
A judgement against the fund could set a precedent for compensation payments to more of its 6,000 investors.
This is an experiment without precedent in economic history.
a bad/dangerous/good precedent This law sets a very dangerous precedent for all businesses.
create/establish/provide a precedent
a legal precedent
base sth on/follow a precedent

(Definition of “precedent” from the Cambridge Business English Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)