Something is preceding if it comes directly before. The preceding sentence is not so much a definition of the word preceding as a description of it.
To cede is to give way, so when you use preceding to describe, say, a person, you’re essentially describing him as the one that just gave way. Previous is a good synonyms. If you are in 11th grade now, you were in 10th grade in the preceding year. And a persistent person will keep asking for something even if "no" has been the answer the 10 preceding times he or she has asked.