Take Precedence Over: Definition, Meaning, and Origin

Last Updated on
May 26, 2024

"Take precedence over" is a phrase used to describe a situation where one thing is considered more important or given priority over another. This expression is often used in legal, business, and everyday contexts to indicate that one factor, task, or person has higher priority and should be addressed or considered first. For example, in a meeting, urgent matters might take precedence over less critical topics.

In short:

  • It means to be considered more important or given priority over something else.
  • It is commonly used in various contexts like legal, business, or everyday situations.

What Does "Take Precedence Over" Mean?

The phrase "take precedence over" refers to the act of prioritizing one thing above another based on its importance, urgency, or relevance. It suggests a hierarchical ordering where the thing that takes precedence must be dealt with first or given more attention or resources. The phrase is versatile and can apply to various scenarios, such as tasks, rules, principles, or even individuals in certain contexts.

More about the phrase's meaning:

  • It often implies that the thing taking precedence must be addressed or considered before anything else.
  • It can be used in a wide range of situations, from formal legal contexts to everyday decision-making.
  • It is often used to resolve conflicts or dilemmas where multiple factors are competing for attention or resources.
  • Similar phrases include "have priority over," "outrank," and "supersede."

Where Does "Take Precedence Over" Come From?

The phrase "take precedence over" has its roots in legal and formal organizational contexts. "Precedence" originates from the Latin word "praecedere," which means "to go before." In legal terms, it often refers to the order in which laws or legal decisions are applied, with some taking priority over others. Over time, the phrase has evolved to be used more broadly in various professional and everyday life scenarios.

10 Examples of "Take Precedence Over" in Sentences

Here are some examples to illustrate how "take precedence over" is used in different contexts:

  • In emergencies, saving lives must take precedence over property concerns.
  • The safety of our employees takes precedence over everything else. That’s why we have to discuss it with everyone.
  • In journalism, reporting the truth should take precedence over sensationalism.
  • Your health should take precedence over your work. You need to exercise and eat well on a regular basis.
  • During a crisis, quick decision-making takes precedence over lengthy deliberation.
  • In medical ethics, patient safety must take precedence over research objectives.
  • The event is slated for next week but may be postponed if something more urgent takes precedence over it.
  • In a budget meeting, essential expenditures will take precedence over optional ones.
  • In traffic laws, emergency vehicles take precedence over other vehicles on the road.
  • It is high time that you prioritize your happiness. It should take precedence over pleasing others.

Examples of "Take Precedence Over" in Pop Culture

While the phrase is formal, it can also be found in pop culture, movies, TV shows, and books, especially in scenarios involving conflicts of interest or priorities.

Let's look at some examples:

  • In "The Merchant of Stories" by Dipa Sanatani, she writes: "No matter how much we plan things—or not plan anything at all—life's plans will always take precedence over our own."
  • A user on Reddit discusses: "Does reading for pleasure take precedence over reading for school/work?" This thread explores the balance between reading for enjoyment and educational or professional obligations.
  • A Mumsnet discussion asks, "To wonder if talking to your child should take precedence over reading your book." The forum addresses the parental challenge of dividing attention between personal time and interacting with children.
  • The phrase is used in a practical context in the Times: "As ever, pragmatism must take precedence over romance." This example underscores the often necessary prioritization of practical considerations over romantic ideals.

Synonyms: Other/Different Ways to Say "Take Precedence Over"

Here are some synonyms or similar phrases:

  • Have priority over
  • Outrank
  • Supersede
  • Override
  • Prevail over
  • Dominate
  • Outweigh
  • Trumps
  • Be more important than
  • Be given preference over

10 Frequently Asked Questions About "Take Precedence Over":

  • What does it mean when something takes precedence over another?

It means that something is considered more important or urgent and thus should be dealt with or prioritized first.

  • Is "take precedence over" a formal expression?

Yes, it's a formal expression often used in legal, business, and official contexts.

  • Can this phrase be used in everyday conversation?

Yes, while formal, it can also be used in everyday conversation to discuss priorities or importance.

  • How do I use "take precedence over" in a sentence?

Use it to indicate that one thing is more important or urgent than another, for example, "In emergency response, saving lives takes precedence over preserving property."

  • Is "take precedence over" only used in negative contexts?

No, it's used in various contexts, not necessarily negative, to indicate priority or importance.

  • Can personal preferences take precedence over rules?

Typically, rules are designed to take precedence over personal preferences, especially in formal or organizational contexts.

  • Does "take precedence over" imply a permanent state?

Not necessarily. It can refer to a temporary state of affairs, depending on the context and the subjects involved.

  • Can safety measures take precedence over convenience?

Yes, in many contexts, safety measures are considered more important and thus take precedence over convenience.

  • Is this phrase commonly used in legal documents?

Yes, it is frequently used in legal documents to clarify the hierarchy or priority of laws, rules, or clauses.

  • How is "take precedence over" different from "supersede"?

"Take precedence over" generally means to be more important or urgent, whereas "supersede" implies replacing or nullifying something else.

Final Thoughts About "Take Precedence Over"

"Take precedence over" is a valuable phrase for expressing the concept of prioritization and importance in various contexts. It is particularly useful in situations where tasks, principles, or elements' relative importance must be clearly established or communicated.

To recap:

  • It's used to express prioritizing one thing over another based on importance or urgency.
  • It's applicable in various contexts, from formal legal discussions to everyday decision-making.
  • It reflects an understanding of hierarchical order and the need to prioritize certain actions or principles.
  • While formal, it is accessible enough to be used in general conversation and communication.

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