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  • IPA(key): /ˈeɪn.ʃənt/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -eɪnʃənt

Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English auncyen, from Old French ancien, from Vulgar Latin *anteānus, composed of Latin ante (before) + -ānus (adjective-forming suffix). The non-etymological /t/ is by analogy with the common ending -ent.

Alternative forms[edit]


ancient (comparative ancienter or more ancient, superlative ancientest or most ancient)

  1. Having lasted from a remote period; having been of long duration; of great age, very old.
    an ancient city
    an ancient forest
    • 1749, Joakim Philander [pseudonym; Friedrich Christian Schoenau], “The Adventure of the Inn”, in Vitulus Aureus: The Golden Calf. Or, A Supplement to Apuleius’s Golden Ass. [], London: Printed for T. Cooper, [], →OCLC, page 119:
      [P]ut the Caſe that the Nobleman of the ancienter Family does not indeed diſgrace his Dignity, but adds nothing to it; having nothing extraordinary to recommend him or diſrecommend him: Whereas the other, by his perſonal Merit, has rais'd himſelf to an equal Dignity. Which of the two in this Suppoſition deſerves the greater Eſteem?
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, “Foreword: The Turk Street Mile”, in The China Governess: A Mystery, London: Chatto & Windus, →OCLC, page 2:
      'I understand that the district was considered a sort of sanctuary,' the Chief was saying. 'An Alsatia like the ancient one behind the Strand, or the Saffron Hill before the First World War. They tell me there was a recognized swag-market down here.'
  2. Existent or occurring in time long past, usually in remote ages; belonging to or associated with antiquity; old, as opposed to modern.
    an ancient author
    an ancient empire
    • 2006, Edwin Black, chapter 2, in Internal Combustion, →OL:
      Buried within the Mediterranean littoral are some seventy to ninety million tons of slag from ancient smelting, about a third of it concentrated in Iberia. This ceaseless industrial fueling caused the deforestation of an estimated fifty to seventy million acres of woodlands.
    • 2013 July–August, Henry Petroski, “Geothermal Energy”, in American Scientist[1], volume 101, number 4:
      Energy has seldom been found where we need it when we want it. Ancient nomads, wishing to ward off the evening chill and enjoy a meal around a campfire, had to collect wood and then spend time and effort coaxing the heat of friction out from between sticks to kindle a flame. With more settled people, animals were harnessed to capstans or caged in treadmills to turn grist into meal.
  3. (history) Relating to antiquity as a primarily European historical period; the time before the Middle Ages.
  4. (obsolete) Experienced; versed.
    • 1550, Thomas Cranmer, A Defence of the True and Catholick Doctrine of the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of our Saviour Christ; with a Confutation of sundry Errors concerning the same, grounded and stablished upon God's Holy Word, and approved by the consent of the most ancient Doc. tors of the Church:
      approved by the consent of the moste ancient doctors of the Churche [part of the book title]
  5. (obsolete) Former; sometime.
Derived terms[edit]
Related terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


ancient (plural ancients)

  1. A person who is very old.
    • 1930, Norman Lindsay, Redheap, Sydney, N.S.W.: Ure Smith, published 1965, →OCLC, page 131:
      Hetty and Mrs. Piper watched them with a lynx-eyed understanding and before the ancient was well upon his road his way was blocked by Hetty.
  2. A person who lived in ancient times.
    • 1981, William Irwin Thompson, The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light: Mythology, Sexuality and the Origins of Culture, London: Rider/Hutchinson & Co., page 210:
      What is ancient for us was in its own time a reworking of what was ancient for the ancients.
  3. (UK, law) One of the senior members of the Inns of Court or of Chancery.
  4. (obsolete) A senior; an elder; a predecessor.
    • 1594–1597, Richard Hooker, edited by J[ohn] S[penser], Of the Lawes of Ecclesiastical Politie, [], London: [] Will[iam] Stansby [for Matthew Lownes], published 1611, →OCLC, (please specify the page):
      Junius and Andronicus [] in Christianity [] were his ancients.

Etymology 2[edit]

Corruption of ensign.


ancient (plural ancients)

  1. (heraldry, archaic) A flag, banner, standard or ensign.
  2. (obsolete, rare) The bearer of a flag; ensign.
    • c. 1597 (date written), [William Shakespeare], The History of Henrie the Fourth; [], quarto edition, London: [] P[eter] S[hort] for Andrew Wise, [], published 1598, →OCLC, [Act IV, scene ii]:
      I preſt mee none but such toſtes and butter with hearts in their bellies no bigger then pianes heades, and they haue bought out their ſeruices, and now my whole charge conſiſts of Ancients, Corporals, Lieutenants, gentlemen of companies: ſlaues as ragged as Lazarus in the painted cloth, where the gluttons dogs licked his ſores, and ſuch as indeed were neuer ſouldiours, […]