Meaning of PAST in English

I. past 1 S1 W1 /pɑːst $ pæst/ BrE AmE adjective

[ Date: 1200-1300 ; Origin: Old past participle of pass ]

1 . PREVIOUS [only before noun] done, used, or experienced before now:

Judging by her past performance, Jane should do very well.

From past experience she knew that it was no use arguing with him.

Study some past exam papers to get an idea of the questions.

2 . RECENT [only before noun] used to refer to a period up until now:

the events of the past year

During the past two weeks, 12 people have died of the disease.

She has been feeling tired for the past few days.

3 . FINISHED finished or having come to an end:

Winter is past and spring has come at last.

writers from past centuries

a tradition rooted in times long past

4 . FORMER [only before noun] having held a particular position in the past or achieved a particular honour in the past

past president/member/winner etc

a past president of the golf club

a celebration for past and present employees of the newspaper

Bruce Jenner, a past Olympic champion

5 . GRAMMAR [only before noun] relating to the ↑ past tense

II. past 2 S1 W2 BrE AmE preposition , adverb

1 . later than a particular time:

It’s ten past nine.

I should be finished by half past (=30 minutes after the hour) .

It was past midnight when the party ended.

Come on Annie, it’s long past your bedtime.

2 . further than a particular place:

The hospital’s just up this road, about a mile past the school.

There are parking spaces over there, just past (=a little further than) the garage.

3 . up to and beyond a person or place, without stopping:

She waved as she drove past.

Will you be going past my house on your way home?

straight/right past (=used to emphasize that someone passes close to you and does not stop)

Monica hurried straight past me and down the steps.

4 . if a period of time goes past, it passes:

Weeks went past without any news.

The hours seemed to fly past.

5 . beyond or no longer at a particular point or stage:

The roses were already past their best.

Reid never really got past the stage of copying other artists.

a pot of yoghurt well past its sell-by date

an Italian singer who was then past her prime (=no longer strong and active)

I’m past caring about my appearance (=I do not care about it any more) .

6 . I wouldn’t put it past somebody (to do something) spoken used to say that you would not be surprised if someone did something bad or unusual because it is typical of them to do that type of thing:

I wouldn’t put it past Colin to cheat.

7 . past it British English spoken too old to be able to do what you used to do, or too old to be useful:

People seem to think that just because I’m retired, I’m past it.

8 . be past due American English something that is past due has not been paid or done by the time it should have been

III. past 3 S1 W2 BrE AmE noun

1 . the past

a) the time that existed before the present

in the past

The lake was smaller in the past.

Good manners have become a thing of the past (=something that does not exist any more) .

It’s time she stopped living in the past (=thinking only about the past) and began to think about her future.

the recent/immediate/distant past

She allowed her mind to drift towards the recent past.

I did a law degree some time in the dim and distant past (=a long time ago) .

b) the ↑ past tense

2 . all in the past spoken used to say that an unpleasant experience has ended and can be forgotten:

You mustn’t think about it. It’s all in the past now.

3 . [singular] the past life or existence of someone or something:

At some time in its past the church was rebuilt.

The woman who ran the bar had a very shady past (=events in her past which might be considered bad) .

• • •


■ adjectives

▪ the recent past

The optimistic economic climate of the recent past has gone.

▪ the distant/remote past

Rivers of molten lava clearly flowed here in the distant past.

▪ the immediate past (=the very recent past)

In order to understand the present, we must look at the immediate past.

■ verbs

▪ forget the past

Forget the past and focus on the future.

▪ be living in the past (=think only about the past)

You’ve got to stop living in the past.

■ phrases

▪ be/become a thing of the past (=not exist any more, or stop existing)

We hope that smoking will become a thing of the past.

▪ a break with the past (=when something is done in a completely different way to how it was done in the past)

These policies are a break with the past.

▪ in the dim and distant past (=a very long time ago)

I think she sang Ireland's entry in the Eurovision Song Contest sometime in the dim and distant past.

• • •


▪ in the past at a time before now, especially a long time ago:

In the past, most children didn’t go to school at all.


We had a big argument, but it’s all in the past now.

▪ in those days/in the old days a long time ago in your life, or in your parents’ or grandparents’ lives, when things were different:

£5 was a lot of money in those days.


In the old days, only very rich people had cars.

▪ at one time used for saying that something was true in the past, but is not now:

At one time there were six schools in the village.


I would have agreed with you at one time.

▪ back in the day informal used when you are talking about a time in the past, especially one that you remember as being very good:

I loved Blondie back in the day.


Back in the day, everyone would meet at the boys’ club.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.