- The definition of former is something that happened in the past or a previously held role.
- An example of former is a person who was once a policeman but is now retired.
- An example of former is the first thing mentioned in a serious of items.
former definition by Webster's New World
- preceding in time; earlier; past: in former times
- first mentioned of two: often used absolutely (with the): Jack and Bill are twins, but the former is taller than the latter
Origin: Middle English formere, comparative of forme, first ; from Old English forma: see foremost
former definition by American Heritage Dictionary
- One that forms; a maker or creator: a former of ideas.
- A member of a school form: a fifth former.
- a. Occurring earlier in time.b. Of, relating to, or taking place in the past.
- Coming before in place or order; foregoing.
- Being the first of two mentioned.
- Having been in the past: a former ambassador.
Origin: Middle English, comparative of forme, first, from Old English forma; see per1 in Indo-European roots.Usage Note: Grammarians have often insisted that the phrases the former and the latter should be used only to refer to the first of two things and the second of two things, respectively, as in Ernest L. Thayer's “Casey at the Bat”: “But Flynn preceded Casey, as did also Jimmy Blake, and the former was a lulu and the latter was a fake.” It is easy to find violations of this rule in the works of good writers; nonetheless, many readers feel uneasy when the words are used in enumerations of more than two things, just as they would feel uneasy over the similar incorrect use of a comparative in a sentence such as Her boys are 7, 9, and 13; only the younger was born in California.