Difference Between Precedence vs. Precedent

Main Difference

The main difference between the terms precedence and precedent is that the precedence refers to the condition of something being more important than something else and precedent refers to something that has happened before but sets an example for events that might happen in the future.

Precedence vs. Precedent

The words precedence and precedent have their origin from the same word, ‘precede.’ However, precedence and precedent have different meanings and usages. Precedence is a noun. It means the condition of being more important than someone or something else. For example, The prestigious client took precedence over the less important client. Precedent also comes from the word ‘precede.’ It is also a noun. It refers to a similar action or event that happened earlier in a prior occurrence. e.g., There was no precedent for the flood that hit this year because a flood that violent has never happened before. Precedence given to something or someone is often in the form of ceremonial or formal acknowledgment or preference. For example, The king was given precedence over the Duchess. Precedent can also mean a thing which is used as an example or a rule that the people follow for future events to justify, authorize, or make a decision about something. For example, The decision of the judge on the court case set a precedent about how to handle such cases should they arise. The expression ‘give precedence’ or ‘take precedence’ or is often used when using ‘precedence.’ Word precedence is a form of the word precede which means to go, happen, or come before someone or something. Precedent can mean the usual way of doing something as a noun. For example, The professor did not follow the precedent of allowing the students free time after consecutive lectures.

Comparison Chart

PrecedencePrecedent
It refers to the condition of being more important than someone or something else.It refers to a similar action or event that happened earlier in an earlier occurrence.
Article of speech
NounNoun, Adjective
Examples
The VIP guests take precedence over the regular guests.This case ruling is going to set a precedent for all the future murder cases.

What is Precedence?

Precedence is a noun that means the fact or right of being considered of superior rank or higher importance. It is the condition of being of a higher priority. Precedence also pertains to the official or formal order of ceremonial ranking of dignitaries as per their importance. The word precedence first appears in the late fifteenth century. It is derived from the noun precedent that means fact or right of preceding another. Something that takes precedence has priority over other things is Precedence. This word is related to the verb precede meaning ‘to come before.’ Precedence is the status established in order of importance or urgency. Precedence given to something or someone is often in the form of ceremonial or formal acknowledgment or preference. The expression ‘give precedence’ or ‘take precedence’ or is often used when using ‘precedence.’ Word precedence is a form of the word precede which means to go, happen, or come before someone or something.

Examples

  • The king was given precedence over the Duchess.
  • The medics treated the people in order of precedence according to their injuries.
  • You might take precedence over your job or your career.
  • The routine maintenance and repairs of the vehicle have precedence over luxury appointments and cosmetic upgrades.

What is the Precedent?

Precedent is a noun. It describes an earlier event that serves as a template or an example to follow when a later, similar event occurs. In the law, a precedent is a previous decision or case that serves as the authority for trying similar cases later. The term precedent appeared in the early fifteenth century to refer case which may be taken as a rule in similar cases. The word precedent comes from the Latin ‘precedent’ that means ‘go before.’ Precedent refers to an example from the past, which provides evidence for an argument. Specifically, it can be described as a previously decided case which guides the decision of a future case. In the legal context, precedent is the existing court ruling that is used as a reference point for a working interpretation of the law. There is an expression ‘broke precedent.’ It is often used with the set way of doing something or the definition of an example. Some other expressions that are used with ‘precedent’ include ‘set a precedent,’ ‘establish a precedent,’ or ‘a dangerous precedent.’ The precedent as an adjective is paired with a noun to mean before or prior, in time, order, arrangement, or significance.

Examples

  • Your negative steps will set a bad precedent for others in the future.
  • The company broke precedence by allowing the employees to vote on the matter.
  • Having discovered a case in the past, the prosecution team used this precedent to support their argument.
  • The student thumbed through a heavy stack of legal precedents in the library.
  • In this case, precedence would not be appropriate.

Key Differences

  1. Precedence refers to the condition of something being more important than something else, whereas precedent refers to something that has happened before but sets an example for events that might happen in the future.
  2. Precedence directs the importance of something on the flip side precedent is an example that has been set.
  3. Precedence given to something or someone is often in the form of ceremonial or formal acknowledgment or preference while precedent can also mean a thing which is used as an example or a rule that the people follow for future events to justify, authorize, or make a decision about something.
  4. The word precedence is a form of the word precede which means to go, happen, or come before someone or something on the other hand precedent can mean the usual way of doing something as a noun.

Conclusion

The terms precedence and precedent have a similar spelling and pronunciation. But they are two completely different words with different usage.

Author:

Aimie Carlson

Aimie Carlson is an English language enthusiast who loves writing and has a master degree in English literature. Follow her on Twitter at @AimieCarlson

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