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français / france
Hi there,

would you please explain to me the meaning of the word "unprecedented" in this sentence:

"He noted that it was unprecedented for her to release such a long-serving prisoner, especially since he was immediately allowed to go to the US"...

I don't think "unprecedented" here has the same usual meaning....Am I right?

Thank you
  • azerty

    français / france
    oh OK, I see
    I thought there also was a kind of pressure exerted on her with this use of "unprecedented", as "it was time for her to release him"...
    but now I see...:)

    thank you for your help, Virtdave


    United States - GA English
    A precedent is basically an action that sets an example and a basis for future actions under similar circumstances.

    An act that is "precedented" follows an earlier action under the same situation or is in line with established guidelines.

    An act that is "unprecedented" has no similar past examples and often goes against earlier guidelines.

    For example, in Common Law countries, high courts will set "precedents" which guide decisions in the future. Roe v. Wade set a precedent allowing abortion, etc., etc.

    It can apply to a lot of other events however, even without human action: "the flood that sweeped the region was of unprecedented size" would mean it was the flood in recent history in the region.

    I've seen it used, also, when the speaker wants to make a point about the importance of an event even when there is a clear "precedent."
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