Definition - The words in a text that a pronoun or some other grammatical entity refers back to.

Example -
Bob didn't have a compass, so he had to ask for directions. (the pronoun he refers back to the antecedent Bob).

Etymology -
The word derives from the Latin antecedere, go before (from ante, before + cedere, to yield).

Oxford English Dictionary -
Its first citation in this sense is from 1393:
"Adjectif and substantif Acordeþ in alle Kyndes — with his antecedent."
(Langl. P. Pl. C. iv. 364)

Quotation -
"Despite the implications of the name, the antecedent can follow rather than precede: 'For his first pacific voyage, Cook had no chronometer.'"
(Source: Oxford Companion to the English Language s.v. antecedent)

Please comment