• WordNet 3.6
    • n preterit a term formerly used to refer to the simple past tense
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
    • Preterit Belonging wholly to the past; passed by. "Things and persons as thoroughly preterite as Romulus or Numa."
    • Preterit (Gram) Past; -- applied to a tense which expresses an action or state as past.
    • n Preterit (Gram) The preterit; also, a word in the preterit tense.
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Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia
    • preterit Bygone; past.
    • preterit In grammar, expressing past time; past: applied especially to the tense which expresses past action or existence simply, without further implication as to continuousness, etc.: as, wrote is the preterit tense of write.
    • n preterit Time past; the past.
    • n preterit In grammar, the tense which signifies past time, or which expresses action or being as simply past or finished. Abbreviated preterit
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Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary
L. praeteritus, p. p. of praeterire, to go or pass by; praeter, beyond, by + ire, to go: cf. F. prétérit,. See Issue


In literature:

In life, as in (that for him more truly actual thing) literature, it was always the preterit that enthralled him.
"And Even Now" by Max Beerbohm
How can one tell the story of the finish in cold-blooded preterites?
"A Mortal Antipathy" by Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.
The verb to bet forms its preterite regularly, as do wet, wed, knit, quit and others that are commonly misconjugated.
"Write It Right" by Ambrose Bierce
The preterits are more literary or formal in tone than the perfects.
"Language" by Edward Sapir
The passive voice is formed by joining the participle preterit to the substantive verb, as I am loved.
"A Grammar of the English Tongue" by Samuel Johnson
Can, iv, 46, an auxiliary verb with preterite meaning; ix, 5, can=gan, began (Halliwell).
"Spenser's The Faerie Queene, Book I" by Edmund Spenser
In this Latinism the preterit denotes that a thing or condition that once existed no longer exists.
"Modern Spanish Lyrics" by Various
These have strong preterites with a present meaning, from which new weak preterites have been formed.
"A Middle High German Primer" by Joseph Wright
The word is no participle at all; but a simple preterite.
"A Handbook of the English Language" by Robert Gordon Latham
In the second Conjugation, the same Particle do is prefixed to the Preterite through all the Moods and Voices, and to the Fut.
"Elements of Gaelic Grammar" by Alexander Stewart

In poetry:

In the back chambers of the State
(Just preterition for his crimes)
We curse him to our busy sky
Who's busy in a hell a hundred times
"Elegy" by Allen Tate