The unedited full-text of the 1906 Jewish Encyclopedia
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RISHONIM (lit. "the first," or "the elders"):

Name applied to the authorities who lived before the one who quotes them. The designation is found in the Talmud, where it is generally used in the sense of "predecessor," or "ancestor" (Shab. 112b; Ber. 20a; Tamid 28a). In later rabbinical literature the name is applied only to the rabbinical authorities preceding the Shulḥan 'Aruk, while all the authorities since and including the Shulḥan 'Aruk are called "aḥaronim" (later ones). See Aḥaronim.

S. J. Z. L.
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