Precedence vs. Precedent: Understanding the Difference

March 17, 2024
Precedence vs. Precedent: Understanding the Difference

Precedence vs. Precedent: Understanding the Difference

Precedence vs. Precedent

Today, we are going to talk about two words that sound quite similar but have different meanings: “precedence” and “precedent.”


“Precedence” comes from the Latin word “praecedere,” which means to go before. It refers to the condition of being considered more important than someone or something else. “Precedent,” on the other hand, comes from the Latin word “praecedent,” which means going before. It is used to describe an earlier event or action that is regarded as an example or guide for similar circumstances that follow.

How to Use Them:

When deciding the order or priority of tasks, we use the word “precedence.” It helps in determining what should come first or take priority. “Precedent,” however, is used in legal contexts to refer to a previous case or decision that serves as an example for future cases.

Trick to Remember the Difference:

One way to remember the difference is by thinking of “precedence” as setting a priority or order, while “precedent” sets an example for the future.

Examples of Precedence:

1. In our school, academic studies take precedence over extracurricular activities.
2. The safety of the passengers takes precedence over everything else for the airline.
3. Following the established rules is of utmost precedence in this organization.
4. The emergency room is designed to treat patients based on the severity and precedence of their condition.
5. As a matter of precedence, the manager will address customer complaints first.

Examples of Precedent:

1. The judge referred to a similar case as a precedent for the current trial.
2. Setting a precedent can influence how future cases are decided.
3. The president’s actions will serve as a precedent for the next administration.
4. Legal teams often research past precedents to build their case.
5. This court must abide by the precedents set by the higher courts.


To sum up, “precedence” is about priority and order, while “precedent” refers to an example or guide set by past events. Remember, “precedence” sets the order, and “precedent” sets the example.