From Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search
See also: archaïc


Alternative forms[edit]


From archaism (ancient or obsolete phrase or expression) or from French archaïque, ultimately from Ancient Greek ἀρχαϊκός (arkhaïkós, old-fashioned), from ἀρχαῖος (arkhaîos, from the beginning, antiquated, ancient, old), from ἀρχή (arkhḗ, beginning, origin), from ἄρχω (árkhō, I am first), from ἄρχω (árkhō, I begin), from Proto-Indo-European *h₂ergʰ- (to begin, rule, command).



archaic (plural archaics)

  1. (archaeology, US, usually capitalized) The prehistoric period intermediate between the earliest period (‘Paleo-Indian’, ‘Paleo-American’, ‘American‐paleolithic’, etc.) of human presence in the Western Hemisphere, and the most recent prehistoric period (‘Woodland’, etc.).
    • 1958, Wiley, Gordon R., and Philip Phillips, Method and Theory in American Archaeology, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, page #107:
      [...] Archaic Stage [...] the stage of migratory hunting and gathering cultures continuing into environmental conditions approximately those of the present.
  2. (paleoanthropology) (A member of) an archaic variety of Homo sapiens.
    • 2009, The Human Lineage, page 432:
      [...] prefer the third explanation for the advanced-looking features of Neandertals (Chapter 7) and the Ngandong hominins (Chapter 6), but they have had little to say about the post-Erectine archaics from China.


archaic (comparative more archaic, superlative most archaic)

  1. Of or characterized by antiquity; old-fashioned, quaint, antiquated.
    • 1848, James Russel Lowell, The Biglow Papers:
      A person familiar with the dialect of certain portions of Massachusetts will not fail to recognize, in ordinary discourse, many words now noted in English vocabularies as archaic, the greater part of which were in common use about the time of the King James translation of the Bible. Shakespeare stands less in need of a glossary to most New Englanders than to many a native of the Old Country.
    • 1887, Barclay V. Head, Historia Numorum A Manual Of Greek Numismatics:
      There is in the best archaic coin work [of the Greeks] ... a strength and a delicacy which are often wanting in the fully developed art of a later age.
    • 1898, William Cowper Brann, The Complete Works of Brann the Iconoclast:
      Brann's compass of words, idioms and phrases harks back to the archaic and reaches forward to the futuristic. Volume 1
    • 2017 December 27, “The Guardian view on Prince Harry: the monarchy’s best insurance policy”, in the Guardian[1]:
      But now he is reinvented; he is on the way to establishing himself as the official interpreter of an ancient, archaic institution to the generations that are already distant in both time and culture from the world that sustains his grandmother.
  2. (chiefly lexicography, of words) No longer in ordinary use, though still used occasionally to give a sense of antiquity and are still likely to be understood by well-educated speakers and are found in historical texts.
    • 1893, Harrington Hugh Melville Percival, “Introduction”, in The faerie queene: Book 1, page lxi:
      The language of the Faerie Queene was made archaic Language:— in order to be in keeping with the chivalry of bygone ages that formed its subject.
    • 1900, Mary Hall Leonard, “The Revival of Old English Words”, in The Writer[2], volume 13, page 23:
      Almost every writer of power will occasionally use with strong effect an archaic term that he has unearthed from the treasures of the older English vocabulary. This is especially true of poets, who recognize that the unusualness of the archaic word will sometimes heighten the poetic effect.
    • 1982, Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy: the technologizing of the word, page 46:
      When generations pass and the object or institution referred to by the archaic word is no longer part of present, lived experience, though the word has been retained, its meaning is commonly altered or simply vanishes. African talking drums, as used for example among the Lokele in eastern Zaire, speak in elaborate formulas that preserve certain archaic words which the drummers can vocalize but whose meaning they no longer know.
    • 2005, Cormac Ó Cuilleanáin, “Editor's Introduction”, in Decameron, page lxvi:
      his resistance to censorship blends nicely with his scorn for the common folk, so a limited edition, in beautiful archaic language incomprehensible to the masses, of rude or blasphemous material such as one can find in the Decameron, would simultaneously satisfy both impulses.
    • 2008, Susan F. Beegel, “Introduction”, in John Steinbeck, Cup of gold: a life of Sir Henry Morgan, buccaneer, page xx:
      Cabell also uses a kind of stylistic dissonance to reinforce his novel's thematic ironies at the sentence level. An inflated speech in archaic language might end with a modern pinprick: "And so on, and so on!"
  3. (archaeology) Belonging to the archaic period.

Usage notes[edit]

  • Although sense 2 pertains to words, when the word archaic is used by non-lexicographers to describe a word or its usage, it is likely meant in the more general sense 1. Some dictionaries mark words that are archaic in this sense with a term such as dated or old-fashioned (the exact terminology varies). When a dictionary describes a word as archaic, it is meant in the more specific sense 2 (see also Wiktionary:Obsolete_and_archaic_terms#Classifications_of_old_words).


Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]