I was reading a historical-political text when I came across a sentence that I am incapable of understanding completely and exactly. What has caused me some bewilderment is the exact meaning of precede. I know the meaning of this word in general. Collins Dictionary has defined it so:

  1. If one event or period of time precedes another, it happens before it. [formal] Intensive negotiations between the main parties preceded the vote. [VERB noun] The earthquake was preceded by a loud roar and lasted 20 seconds. [be VERB-ed + by] Industrial orders had already fallen in the preceding months. [VERB-ing] Synonyms: go before, introduce, herald, pave the way for.

Times, Sunday Times says: because one thing precedes another, it does not mean that one causes the other.

May Day began on the streets of Chicago in 1886, and was celebrated in Havana and other Latin American cities as early as 1890. Organized labour proved to be an important force in the Americas, even if it was usually kept subordinate. The US New Deal marked a confluence between enlightened liberalism and the industrial working class, which succeeded in organizing itself during the Depression years through heroic struggles. Samuel Gompers may have epitomized the parochial craft unionism which preceded the New Deal, but he was a formidable negotiator on behalf of the skilled workers that his movement represented, and was honoured with a monument in Washington that exceeded any bestowed upon a workers’ leader in Paris, London or Berlin.

What does this verb in this particular text mean? Does it mean that parochial craft unionism has caused the New Deal, in other words, paved the way for it, or that it simply came before it in time?

I have already asked this question on ELU, and they told me that this question is suitable for this from.

1 Answer 1


Precede just means come before; it doesn't generally carry any specific meaning about preparing the way. The passage you quote is just saying that "parochial craft unionism" came before the New Deal (in time).

Maybe you are confused by the fact that the Collins Dictionary gives pave the way for as a synonym. Synonyms listed in dictionaries and thesauruses aren't necessarily words with exactly the same meaning; it's common for them to have slightly different meanings or connotations. You shouldn't assume that you can replace one word with a "synonym" without changing the meaning.

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