The definition of avant la lettre is before a concept was invented or before a term was coined.
An example of avant la lettre is a philosopher explaining the concept of gravity before it was a widely accepted scientific principle.
avant la lettre
before the (specified) concept, word, person, etc. existed: a mid-Victorian matron who was a feminist avant la lettre
Origin of avant la lettreFrench
- (idiomatic) Before the term was coined; used after a term applied anachronistically.