OALD: 4. anticipate somebody (doing something) (formal)
= to do something before it can be done by somebody else
[S]ynonym[:] forestall
● When Scott reached the South Pole he found that Amundsen had anticipated him.

Please beware that I ask only about this definition unique to anticipate. The use of the others that overlap with 'expect' are decried on p 53, Plain Words, 2014, by Ernest Gowers, revised by Rebecca Gowers.

Amundsen reached the South pole on 14 December 1911; so it preceded Scott's arrival on 17 January 1912. But the fact remains that Scott still arrived there; so how did Amundsen anticipate (= forestall) Scott?

  • 1
    Amundsen prevented Scott from being the first to arrive at the pole, which was the glory point of the expedition. – StoneyB on hiatus Mar 17 '15 at 18:13
  • I don't see the objection. "to do something before it can be done by somebody else". Amundson reached the pole before Scott could do it. The quoted definition does not mean "forestall", which means to prevent something from happening. – WhatRoughBeast Mar 17 '15 at 18:25
  • Only one expedition could be first. As @StoneyB implied, once Amundsen had reached the pole, Scott was prevented from being first... he was "frozen out" of first place. – DrMoishe Pippik Mar 18 '15 at 1:05
  • anticipated=beat him to it – Tᴚoɯɐuo Mar 18 '15 at 2:07

I think the definition "to do something before it can be done by somebody else" is poor in that it's slightly mixing up two actual usages, and not being quite right on either.

From http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/anticipate, we have

to be before (another) in doing, thinking, achieving, etc.

but this is usually used when the achievement is separated by a long time period, so not really suitable for Scott / Amundsen, and it doesn't have the connotation of 'preventing' the second action.

We also have

to nullify, prevent, or forestall by taking countermeasures in advance

but this usually has some of the flavour of 'expect', in that there has to be some merit to predicting what would happen. As Scott's expedition wasn't a secret, there's no particular merit in the prediction. If talking about a race, you don't normally say that the winner "anticipated" the second-placed competitor.

It's possible that Amundsen could have anticipated some other aspect of the Scott expedition, but that's not clear from the example.

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