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[Edited for clarity per feedback] I am creating a table of work items, and I want to label those items that are needed as other items are dependent on them. This label will be a different column. 'Dependency' is not clear as it could mean either way - this item is dependent on another OR another item is dependent on this. Whats the one word? Is 'Predecessor' the most apt or there's a better option?

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    Please post a sample sentence where you'd use this word; use a '____' to show where the word is supposed to be placed in that sentence. – linguisticturn Aug 6 at 19:31
  • The only clue I have to what you mean is your use of predecessor. Are you asking for a word that describes the thing that something else is dependent on? For example, we are dependent on water to survive. Therefore, water is a requirement of survival? Are you looking for a noun? – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Aug 6 at 21:11
  • Do I understand correctly that you want to identify the key items? – Hot Licks Aug 7 at 21:36
  • Try "priority." While "priority" is often used to mean "important," it actually means that it comes first, i.e., prior to others that are to follow. – Benjamin Harman Sep 6 at 23:26
  • Root task(s)...or root whatever. – KannE Oct 7 at 4:39
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Try "priority," which can be used as either a noun or adjective. While "priority" is often used to mean "important," it actually means that it comes first, i.e., prior to others that are to follow.

Another term you might try is "protasis" (noun) or "protatic" (adjective). The protasis is the if clause in an if-then sentence. Something is protatic when it is a condition or requirement for something else happening.

A third term that is both a noun and an adjective that you might try is widely used by universities for courses that must be taken before later courses: prerequisite. In the vernacular, that often gets shorthanded to "prereq." If you are required to take Math 423 - Quantitative Analysis to graduate but can't take that course until you've taken and passed Math 385 - Advanced Statistics, then Math 385 is a "prereq."

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contingency

the quality or state of being contingent (Merriam-Webster)

contingent

dependent on or conditioned by something else (Merriam-Webster)
//Payment is contingent on fulfillment of certain conditions.
//a plan contingent on the weather

  • In the constructions provided by these examples sentences, the word dependent could be used just as easily. (And if dependent is seen as somehow going "either way," so, too, could contingent.) In short, this does nothing in terms of making it clear why contingent is any better than the original word. – Jason Bassford Supports Monica Aug 6 at 19:40
  • @JasonBassford I take your point… I guess we can't really move with this question until the OP gives us a sample sentence. – linguisticturn Aug 6 at 21:02

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