I've been using the words successor and predecessor a lot in the context of computational feature tracking[*], which is to say, in a context not involving people (in case that makes any difference). Now I've stumbled upon the word precursor, which would be a handy alternative to predecessor because of it's equally long as successor (programmers will understand), so I've decided to look up if there is any difference.

According to this source (though not mentioned here), there's a slight difference between predecessor and precursor:

A predecessor is something that's basically the same as what's in place right now; a precursor is something that's less developed than what's in place right now. So basically a predecessor gets replaced by the current one, a precursor not only gets replaced, but actually it has "grown" into the current one.

Both these definitions are defensible for my use case, so that's not the issue. However, I want to be consistent, and predecessor seems like the more appropriate counterpart to successor than precursor.

Yet, I have not found an equivalent synonym to successor as precursor is to predecessor. Is there one?

[*] If two features at consecutive timesteps correspond to each other, then the first/second is the predecessor/successor of the second/first.

  • Please read over your title and correct the typo. (It would be good if it started with a capital letter as well.
    – David
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 12:23
  • Thanks for pointing out the typo; I've changed the titel to match the question better.
    – flotzilla
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 12:43
  • By the way, is it still fully appropriate to call predecessor and precursor synonyms in this context (given the subtle difference in meaning), or is there another word for such "almost-synonyms"?
    – flotzilla
    Commented May 22, 2017 at 12:45
  • 1
    @David - You will be making positive contributions to the site if you go ahead and make these types of corrections to posts, especially where new participants are concerned. Commented May 23, 2017 at 3:17
  • @aparente001 — I do that too often. Occasionally I feel that anyone posting on SE English Language & Usage and asking others for help should take the trouble to run a spelling check or read their own question once submitted. If you wipe people's arses for them all the time they never learn to do it themselves.
    – David
    Commented May 23, 2017 at 10:07

1 Answer 1


"Predecessor" is to "successor" as "precursor" is to "descendent:"

proceeding from an ancestor or source

In the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it's listed as the only antonym of "precursor".

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