Skip to content

Precedence vs. Precedent


Precedence means "priority of importance," as in "Their request takes precedence because we received it first".

Idiomatically, Precedence is often used with the verbs take, have, or give.

Family matters can be said to "take/have precedence" over one's job, for instance; or a picece of legislation might "give precedence" to big business.


  • If this matter isn't resolved soon, it will take precedence over everything else we have to finish.
  • The safety of passengers and crew members takes precedence over all other considerations while on board an aircraft.
  • In his company, we believe customer satisfaction has the highest precedence.
  • The military personnel were introduced in order of precedence.
  • Environmental sustainability must be given precedence over corporate greed.


Precedent means "an earlier occurrence" or "something done or said that may serve as an example".

Its plural precedents is pronounced just like precedence, so they are homophones.

The noun precedent is frequently used in the phrase "to set a precedent", meaning "to set an example or rule to be followed".

When something contradicts an established precedent or prevailing custom or practice, it is said to "break with precedent" or "go against precedent".

Another common collocation is "without precedent" or "unprecedented" in reference to something not supported by a prior example or ruling.


  • Judges have to consider existing precedents before making rulings.
  • The persecution of political opponents has set a dangerous precedent.
  • Everyoone was shocked when the youngest daughter broke the precedent by pursuing a fashion degree instead of medicine.
  • The country's decision to invest heavily in climate innovation has set a precedent that other countries should follow.
  • The team has enjoyed unprecedented success this year.