1. Something done or said that may serve as an example to authorize a subsequent act of the same kind; an authoritative example.
"Examples for cases can but direct as precedents only." -- Hooker.
2. A preceding circumstance or condition; an antecedent; hence, a prognostic; a token; a sign. [Obs.]
3. A rough draught of a writing which precedes a finished copy. [Obs.] Shak.
4. (Law) A judicial decision which serves as a rule for future determinations in similar or analogous cases; an authority to be followed in courts of justice; forms of proceeding to be followed in similar cases. Wharton.
Syn. -- Example; antecedent. -- Precedent, Example. An example in a similar case which may serve as a rule or guide, but has no authority out of itself. A precedent is something which comes down to us from the past with the sanction of usage and of common consent. We quote examples in literature, and precedents in law.