English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

In the New Oxford American Dictionary I read that one of the meaning of anticipate is come or take place before (an event or process expected or scheduled for a later). In which context is anticipate (or anticipated) understood to have that meaning?

(?) The meeting has been anticipated to this morning.

share|improve this question
? "John Langhorne, poet and English translator of the 1st-century Greek biographer Plutarch; his work anticipates that of George Crabbe in its description of the problems facing the poor. " – Kris Oct 17 '12 at 7:26
? "North and South, novel by Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell. This story of the contrast between the values of rural southern England and the industrial north has a psychological complexity that anticipates George Eliot’s novels of provincial life." "Scenes from Private Life, collection of six lengthy short stories by Honoré de Balzac. They are for the most part detailed psychological studies of girls in conflict with parental authority. Balzac’s acute observation of the minutia of domestic life anticipates the spectacularly detailed societal observations of his later Parisian studies." – Kris Oct 17 '12 at 7:28
up vote 3 down vote accepted

Here is that definition from the OED with some examples:

To observe or practise in advance of the due date; to cause to happen earlier, accelerate.

1534 MORE On the Passion Wks. 1557, 1308/1 Christe dyd anticipate the tyme of eatynge his Paschall lambe. 1625 MEADE in Ellis Orig. Lett. I. 307 III. 190 The funerall..is anticipated, and shall be on Thursday. 1751 CHAMBERS Cycl. s.v. Anticipation, Anticipating a payment means the discharging it before it falls due. 1818 SCOTT Hrt. Midl. (1873) 17 To anticipate by half an hour the usual time of his arrival. 1819 BYRON Juan II. lii, Some leap'd overboard..As eager to anticipate their grave.

This use strikes me as obsolete, but at the very least, it is quite rare.

share|improve this answer
It's interesting how in Italian the use of anticipate to mean take place before is still actual (la riunione è stata anticipata). That is why I try to use anticipate in English. Actually, we use also anticipate in a sentence like I anticipated his every move (ho anticipato ogni sua mossa). – kiamlaluno Sep 1 '10 at 2:32
To me this is not the same as "take place before." More like "hasten." – moioci Sep 4 '10 at 0:38
+1 May be surviving in legalese. Did not anticipate its demise yet. – Kris Oct 17 '12 at 7:20

Here's an example (in a legal context) of anticipate being used to mean predate:

Turning to the instant case, the court wrote that “because Nike's AJXV anticipated the invention asserted in claims 5 and 6 of the '215 Patent and predates plaintiffs' original patent application by more than one year, claims 5 and 6 are invalid under the statutory ‘on-sale bar’ codified at section 102(b) of title 35 of the United States Code,” wrote the court.

share|improve this answer
This is a good example of the usage in question. My observation is that generally 'anticipate' when used in this way compares events both of which took place in the past. – mickeyf Sep 1 '10 at 14:04
+1 Looks like this sense relates more to antecedence than anticipate to me. – Kris Oct 17 '12 at 7:18

As the old saw puts it, "John and Jane anticipated marriage" does not mean the same as "John and Jane expected to be married".

share|improve this answer
...if John and Jane anticipated marriage, only Jane might find herself expectant". – Matt Jun 19 '12 at 11:37

Typically it refers simply to having fore-thought of an occurrence, or one's expectation of something before it happens. Your example might be better phrased "The meeting had been anticipated since last week" or "I anticipated his every move in that chess game." In each case the sentence is referring to preparation, or precognition, of an event.

Typically anticipated will be tied together with a sentence like this "I anticipated his drive down the middle of the basketball court, so I planted my feet and took the foul."

Otherwise, the example could be tied to your question better if phrased as 'The meeting anticipated the budget shortfall.' In which case you are still dealing in the same sense and basic usage of normal "anticipate", but rather than a mental anticipation it is an event/object that is in advance of.

share|improve this answer
No, this is the meaning to expect or await. – moioci Sep 1 '10 at 2:21
@moi Anticipate synonyms: "assume, await, bargain for, be afraid, conjecture, count chickens, count on, cross the bridge, divine, figure, forecast, foresee, foretaste, foretell, have a hunch, hope for, jump the gun, look for, look forward to, plan on, prepare for, prevision, prognosticate" (thesaurus.com/browse/anticipate) – mfg Sep 1 '10 at 13:08

The object of anticipation cannot be an antecedent of anticipation.

Parsing the example: The meeting has been anticipated to this morning.

Strike "has been" (anticipation is anticipated if is has not yet happened; or was or had been anticipated if it did not occur; but has been would only be in correct syntax in a sentence like ...has been anticipated for weeks (not "to" the morning on which it is scheduled).

Strike "to" and insert "for"...an increasingly common British preposition breakdown ...unfortunately being propogated the world over to the detriment of clarity in English prose as a general phenomenon.

Resultant example: The meeting is anticipated for this morning.

share|improve this answer
This doesn't answer the question. – kiamlaluno Oct 17 '12 at 7:15

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.