In Italian there is the expression "something as an antechamber for something else", meaning something can precede and somehow cause something else.

For example:

Data show prisons are far from being places to rehabilitate criminals into society. For many young offenders, in fact, jail only represents an antechamber for more serious crimes.


Steam, the famous video game seller, now allows its customers to try a new game for a limited amount of time, hoping the rent would work as an antechamber for a purchase.

Now, while an English reader would probably understand what I am saying, I couldn't find this idiom anywhere. Is there any other idiom or metaphor that would allow one to express this same idea?


6 Answers 6


A person or thing that comes before another of the same kind; a forerunner:
In so doing, Coram created London's first art gallery, a precursor of the Royal Academy.

Oxford Dictionaries

I'm not saying I agree or disagree with the statement below. It's just an example...

Long-term studies on patterns of drug usage among young people show that very few young people get started on more serious drugs without having used marijuana first. Therefore, marijuana is a precursor drug. People who use marijuana are more likely to use cocaine than those who have never used marijuana.

For the video game seller example you could say

... hoping the rent would act as a first step toward a purchase

  • Don't understand the downvote on this one- it is the correct answer. "Gateway" is used in some specific circumstances, two of which are Crime and Drugs, but "Precursor" is the generic term for "that which comes before and carries a possible causal effect"...
    – Marv Mills
    Nov 28, 2014 at 13:30
  • 1
    @MarvMills - I think their is a degree of misunderstanding on this question ( which might be better phrased). The idea of 'anticamera' OP is referring to is that of a 'waiting room' where something develops before moving on to the 'main room'. It may be used with a positive or negative connotation..one example is.. "Cancer often is the 'anticamera' of death." or "your hard training may be the 'anticamera' of your success". BTW not my downvote. – Josh61 29 mins ago
    – user66974
    Nov 28, 2014 at 15:49
  • 1
    Sounds like you are agreeing with me that "precursor" is the right answer, or did I misunderstand you?
    – Marv Mills
    Nov 28, 2014 at 16:39
  • 2
    @MarvMills I hope he does, I think he does. Gateway is a really good expression, but no way it fits with the second example.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Nov 28, 2014 at 17:48
  • We also have "precursore" in Italian, but that's more technical. Does "precursor" not belong to a technical register?
    – Nemo
    Dec 28, 2016 at 16:46

In the US, at least, by far the most common metaphor used for "an entry point to a life of crime" is "gateway".

We see this, for example, in "gateway drug":

This is a study of the occurrence and timing of young people’s first use of various types of illicit drug and their first experience of various types of offending, including truancy. Its aim is to investigate the gateway effect – the hypothesis that use of soft drugs leads to a higher future risk of hard drug use and crime

Stephen Pudney, 2002: "The road to ruin: Sequences of initiation into drug use and offending by young people in Britain".


springboard, used figuratively, fits perfectly

A thing that lends impetus or assistance to a particular action, enterprise, or development.

e.g. "‘an economic plan that may be the springboard for recovery’(OED)

"doorway" also fits. e.g. "A doorway to crime".

"doorway" OED - "an entrance to a building or room through a door.

Figurative: "the doorway to success"


I think that prelude, as a general term, can convey the idea of what you are referring to: (from M-W)

  • something that comes before and leads to something else

which is close to the italian 'preludio', a synonym of 'anticamera'.


The term gateway is often the most suitable choice, as Don Bron points out. As he notes, the word often (in U.S. usage, anyway) carries the sense of being a way station on a path toward perdition or criminality—though it can be neutral in meaning or even positive. For example, the North American cities of Winnipeg (Manitoba), Tulsa (Oklahoma), Fort Wayne (Indiana), Omaha (Nebraska), Fargo (North Dakota), and St. Louis (Missouri) all claim to be "the Gateway to the West"—a point of civic pride.

But for people on a trajectory from bad life choices to good ones, gateway isn't a great choice because of its association with a downward spiral toward incarceration or institutionalization. For people working toward rehabilitation, a popular alternative designation is halfway house, as this definition from Merriam-Webster's Eleventh Collegiate Dictionary suggests:

halfway house n (1694) ... 2 : a residence for individuals after release from institutionalization(as for mental disorder, drug addiction, or criminal activity) that is designed to facilitate their readjustment to private life

Halfway house is usually intended literally as a house of the type that the Eleventh Collegiate describes, but it can also be used figuratively, as in this example from Philippe de Lombaerde, ‎Antoni Estevadeordal & ‎Kati Suominen, Governing Regional Integration for Development: Monitoring Experiences, Methods and Prospects (2008):

In a nutshell, regionalization is an intermediate position between the backlash of laissez-faire and the unfeasibility of a world government, or, as pointed out by Nye, 'a halfway house between the nation-state and a world that is not willing to become one' [citation omitted].

And this one from Sheri Berman, The Primacy of Politics: Social Democracy and the Making of Europe's Twentieth Century (2006):

Modern scholars, meanwhile, have often failed to appreciate social democracy's ideological distinctiveness. Most work on the subject in recent decades adopts one of two perspectives. The first, often espoused by critics, sees social democracy as an unstable halfway house between Marxism and liberalism, cobbled together from elements of incompatible traditions. In this view, social democrats are socialists without the courage of revolutionary conviction or socialists who have chosen ballots over bullets.


Isn't the word you're looking for antecendent?


  1. preceding; prior: an antecedent event.


  1. a preceding circumstance, event, object, style, phenomenon, etc.

More explanations and links if you Google it.

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