Avant-la-lettre definitions

ȧvä lȧ let'
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.

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Before the (specified) concept, word, person, etc. existed.

A mid-Victorian matron who was a feminist avant la lettre.

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(idiomatic) Before the term was coined; used after a term applied anachronistically.
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Origin of avant-la-lettre

Borrowing from French avant la lettre (“before the letter”)