So I have A and B. B depends on A, which is why B is a dependent entity or a dependant. In this case what do I call the A entity? A defining entity? What is the right way to express that it is something which something else depends on?


I apologize for not mentioning the lack of any specific context which people are asking about. Well, it is so very abstract and there is simply no context defined at all. All we know is that A only exerts some influence over B making it dependent. Let me be even more precise, all we known is that the existence of B doesn't make sense if A doesn't exist.

I cannot accept following alternatives, because they imply some context which we don't have and thus can be misleading:

  • provider (A provides something to B), sorry, nothing is being provided
  • controller (A controls B), sorry, no controlling is involved
  • parent/child relation (A is a parent of B), sorry, no inheritance is involved

There were "precedent" and "antecedent" which imply a cause/outcome relation between things. They are pretty abstract and seem like almost what I was looking for except for the unwanted time substance being involved.

I really like the answer from StoneyB who suggested "governing" or "determining". Out of all I think determining works the best in a very abstract sense of the matter in question.

Also it was brought up that there is a similar question at EL&U: https://english.stackexchange.com/questions/36033/if-a-person-depends-upon-you-what-are-you-for-him

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    It probably "depends" on context. If B is, say, a child or otherwise dependent/dependant, A is probably a parent or carer. If B is a "software construct", A may be a parent if B is created from it by "inheritance", or perhaps a prerequisite if not. Other words may be more suitable in other contexts, so until you've given more detail I don't see how this can be answered succinctly. Jun 4, 2013 at 21:11
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    @Carlo_R, "antecedent" looks like being somewhat a right word. Jun 4, 2013 at 21:44
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    @FumbleFingers, for derived things there is an established notion of a "prototype" in IT, which isn't my case. Requirements don't look like a good choice either, because there is no urge involved. I tend to believe that Carlo_R suggested the closest match. Jun 4, 2013 at 21:51
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    @ bonomo: Much as I respect Carlo's contributions to ELL, he (and I suspect you) are not native speakers of English. In normal usage, an antecedent is simply a thing or event that existed before. In logic/law that's often stretched to mean thing or event that logically leads to something happening/being discovered later, but I think it would be somewhat odd to use it in your context. Jun 4, 2013 at 22:03
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    This has been asked at EL&U, too. Some time ago, but I think the answers could be helpful.
    – Matt Ellen
    Jun 5, 2013 at 15:00

3 Answers 3


Two verbs often used to designate the influence exerted over a dependent entity are govern and determine.

Generally speaking, govern tends to be used of formal, logical or legal relationships, while determine tends to be used of physical or social causation; but they are pretty interchangeable.

For an adjective, then, I suggest governing or determining/determinant. For a noun, determinant will work, but I don't know of a convenient nominal of govern. If you're up to using a term beyond its normal extension (which is perfectly acceptable with sufficient context), you could use governor; or you could revive the obsolete synonym governant.

  • I really like the fact you mentioned "influence exerted over a dependent entity" this is exactly what it is in my case. Some sort of influence without any more details. I think "determining" is what I am after. Thank you. Jun 5, 2013 at 15:30

If something is dependent on something else then the dependent receives something from the thing it depends on. You might therefore try:

provider : one that provides

provide 2a : to supply or make available (something wanted or needed)
b : to make something available to
3 : to have as a condition


I appreciate StoneyB's answer, and agree that governor could be a suitable word choice.

Reading through the comments, though, I would like to suggest a term which is possible preferable: Controller. This is a word I've often used in similar software design situations. In this context it has similar meaning to governor, but I think would be a more clear term in software development. B depends upon A, the implication in your comments being that A determines some of B's properties and actions. So A would be the controller or B, and B dependent upon A.

You really might just stick with parent and child, the most clear and common software design terminology for similar situations. The child is naturally dependent upon the parent. But if this is unsuitable, I think controller ought to meet your needs.

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