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When a person dies, it is common to say the person was predeceased by other people such as his parents, his brother, and others.

However, I am wondering if these statements are correct:

  • His brother predeceased his birth.
  • Their child predeceased their marriage.

In these cases, "predeceased" means "died before". But is "predeceased" valid here? Or is it only valid before another death event, as in:

  • His brother predeceased him/his death.

There are various definitions of the meaning of "predeceased". Some refer only to preceding another person's death, but others such as at Dictionary.com (based on the Random House Dictionary) give the definition of "predeceased" as:

"to die before (another person, the occurrence of an event, etc.)"

And there is some legal use of "predeceased" with respect to events that are not necessarily a death event, such as this definition of Survive:

"Survive: An individual than has neither predeceased an event, including the death of another individual, or is deemed to have predeceased an event under §15-11-104, §15-11-702 and §15-11-712 C.R.S."

Searching on Google for "predeceased the event" gives 21,100 results, many of which are from legal documents.

So my question is, in proper English, is it proper to use the word "predeceased" when referring to events other than a death, such as a birth or a marriage or any other event, even something like the sinking of the Titanic?

In other words, is "predeceased" allowed everywhere you could write "died before"?

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Predeceased only means that one person died before another person died. It cannot be used in an other fashion, such as one person dying and the other person going shopping. –  tchrist Apr 18 '13 at 12:35
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@lkessler No, you cannot use predecease that way. You predecease a person, not an event, and it means that that other person died after you did. –  tchrist Apr 18 '13 at 13:34
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I suggest consulting the Dictionary’s entry for predeceased, which states: "adj. Chiefly in legal contexts. Of a person: that has died before another person, esp. a spouse or next of kin; previously deceased. Also occas. fig." If a person predeceases his political party, then he has died before his own political party dies. Note that parties are not alive and therefore can only die in an extended, figurative sense. This makes even less sense if you try to stretch it to say that he predeceases his birthday party. –  tchrist Apr 18 '13 at 15:09
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But it ISN'T - the examples from play, legal texts and other books show that the word indeed HAS and IS used to denote that a persone died before someTHING else and not just someONE else. The Oxford ref does not show an example of a person who predeceased the war for example –  mplungjan Apr 18 '13 at 15:25
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@tchrist - That is a subscription site that only has institutional free trials. I don't see any free access this week, and even if there is, it won't help people who read this question a week from now. You've commented a lot on the question and the other answers to this question. Why don't you add your own answer, and in that you can quote the definition of the word from the General Reference. –  lkessler Apr 18 '13 at 21:39
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3 Answers 3

predecease Legal dictionary:

die before someone else, as "if my brother, Harry, should predecease me, his share of my estate I give to his son, Eugene."

predecease Merriam/Webster:

to die before (another person)

predecease reference.com

to die before (another person, the occurrence of an event, etc.).

Here is a UK reference to try

Over 5,206,000 obituaries, death notices, wedding announcements and all other family announcements, from 511 newspapers, updated daily.

  • His wife predeceased him
  • Predeceased by his wife
  • Predeceased by husband ... and grandson ...

Google NGram predeceased

  • predeceased by his son
  • predeceased issue !!!
  • predeceased beneficiary

So we also found

“Survive” means that an individual has neither predeceased an event, including the death of another individual, nor is deemed to have predeceased an event.

and

Consulars are duly congratulated who predeceased the war between Pompeius and Caesar

I found one blog post by an individual which does not prove anything

Sadly, Lucy's mother, Lucy Dupuy Craig Woolfolk, predeceased the wedding event by 14 >years.

but I also found a lot of

his father predeceased the birth

My conclusion: it IS used with events, but I cannot say if it can be used with any event. People will understand it, but if this is a legal issue, you need to talk to a lawyer

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There are some references, such as at Dictionary.com (based on the Random House Dictionary) that give the definition of "predeceased" as: "to die before (another person, the occurrence of an event, etc.)" - See: dictionary.reference.com/browse/predeceased –  lkessler Apr 18 '13 at 14:14
    
Ah, I see------ –  mplungjan Apr 18 '13 at 14:16
    
Also, I've found some legal use of "predeceased" with respect to events that are not necessarily a death event, such as this definition of "Survive: An individual than has neither predeceased an event, including the death of another individual, or is deemed to have predeceased an event under §15-11-104, §15-11-702 and §15-11-712 C.R.S." at courts.state.co.us/Glossary.cfm#S –  lkessler Apr 18 '13 at 14:30
    
Yeah, I found this one too when adding "an" Survive” means that an individual has neither predeceased an event, including the death of another individual, nor is deemed to have predeceased an event. –  mplungjan Apr 18 '13 at 14:34
    
If you want to use websearches as "proof" or "disproof" of the use of a phrase, why not search for "predeceased the birth", "predeceased the marriage" or "predeceased the event". The latter has 21,100 results on Google, many of which are from legal documents. –  lkessler Apr 18 '13 at 14:39
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Predecease mean someone died before a event or person. For example you basically said the marriage was dead before the child was born. I would have said "their marriage preceded the birth of their child."

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No, it does not mean that. Predecease mean one person died before another person died. –  tchrist Apr 18 '13 at 13:33
    
This is as I understood it, that "Predecease means someone died before an event or person." I am specifically interested in its usage prior to an event. How do I properly use it in that case? –  lkessler Apr 18 '13 at 13:39
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By dissecting the word "predeceased," one can conclude it would mean 'before death." It is generally a jargonistic term used by lawyers and funeral directors, both of which use the word liberally and without much thought of the overall awkward sentence construction. For example, "Bill was predeceased by his parents." By examining the sentence, one could conclude Bill died before his parents, as most people associate "pre" with before. A better practice would be to say "Bill's parents died before him," and eliminate any vagueness.

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it's a shortening of "preceded in death" rather than "before death" –  virmaior Feb 19 at 5:41
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