before: [OE] Before is a Germanic compound, made up of *bi- ‘by’ and *forana ‘from the front’ (the resulting *biforana entered Old English as beforan). The second element, *forana, is a derivative of *fora, source of English for; this originally meant ‘before’, and only gradually developed the senses we are familiar with today. => for
Old English beforan "before, in front of, in the presence of, in former times," from Proto-Germanic *bi- "by" + *forana "from the front," adverbial derivative of *fora (see fore (adv.)). Compare Old Frisian bifara, Old Saxon biforan, Old High German bifora, German bevor. Contrasting before and after in illustrations is from Hogarth (1768). Before the mast in old sailing ships denoting "common sailor," is from the place of their berths, in front of the fore-mast.