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Etymology 1[edit]

From Middle English eldre, from Old English eldra, yldra, ieldra, from Proto-Germanic *alþizô. The vowel change from a to e triggered by the following i is called umlaut or I-mutation.



  1. comparative degree of old: older, greater than another in age or seniority.
    The elder of the two was also an elder statesman
    • 1913, Robert Barr, chapter 5, in Lord Stranleigh Abroad[2]:
      She removed Stranleigh’s coat with a dexterity that aroused his imagination. The elder woman returned with dressings and a sponge, which she placed on a chair.
Usage notes[edit]
  • The normal comparative of old is older. The irregular form elder is sometimes used with family members, but is otherwise rare (except in fixed expressions such as elder statesman). Elder is generally limited to attributive position (my elder brother) and does not occur in predicative position (*my brother is elder). This also implies that elder cannot be followed by than.[1]


elder (plural elders)

  1. An older person.
  2. A leader of a community, someone of great age or seniority.
    We were presented to the village elder.
    • 2022 August 25, Seyi Akiwowo, How to Stay Safe Online: A digital self-care toolkit for developing resilience and allyship, Penguin UK, →ISBN:
      I probably wouldn't be here talking about this very topic if it weren't for the few but mighty elders in the tech and gender rights spaces. Folks like South Africa-based Jan Moolman from the Association for Progressive Communications []
  3. (Should we delete(+) this sense?) One who is older than another.
    Respect your elders.
  4. One who lived at an earlier period; a predecessor.
  5. An officer of a church, sometimes having teaching responsibilities.
  6. A clergyman authorized to administer all the sacraments.
    a travelling elder
  7. (Canada) An older Indigenous person respected as an authority figure, especially when in a counselling, consultative, or ceremonial role.
    At the friendship centre, you can arrange to meet with a social worker or an elder.
  8. (US, Mormonism) One ordained to the lowest office in the Melchizedek priesthood.
    After being a member of the Church for a while, Bill was ordained to the office of elder.
    Jack had been an elder for only a few days when he received a new calling.
  9. (US, Mormonism) Male missionary.
    The elders are coming over for dinner tonight.
  10. (Mormonism, often capitalized) Title for a male missionary; title for a general authority.
    One of the long-time leaders in the Church is Elder Packer.
  11. (Germanic paganism) A pagan or Heathen priest or priestess.


elder (third-person singular simple present elders, present participle eldering, simple past and past participle eldered)

  1. (Quakerism) To admonish or reprove for improper conduct by the elders of the meeting.
    I was eldered for directly responding to someone else's message in meeting for worship.

Derived terms[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

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Wikispecies has information on:


Sambucus nigra

From Middle English eldre, eller, from Old English ellærn, from Proto-Germanic *elernaz, *eldernaz (compare Low German Elhorn, Elloorn).


elder (plural elders)

  1. A small tree, Sambucus nigra, having white flowers in a cluster, and edible purple berries.
    • 1940, Rosetta E. Clarkson, Green Enchantments: The Magic Spell of Gardens, The Macmillan Company, page 273:
      Have a tree or two the witches particularly like, such as the alder, larch, cypress and hemlock; then, to counteract any possible evil effects, there must be a holly, yew, hazel, elder, mountain ash or juniper.
  2. Any of the other species of the genus Sambucus: small trees, shrubs or herbaceous perennials with red, purple, or white/yellow berries (some of which are poisonous).
Derived terms[edit]
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.
See also[edit]

Etymology 3[edit]

Perhaps from Proto-Germanic *aliþro (udder), from *alaną (to nourish). Cognate with dialectal Dutch elder (udder).[2]



  1. A cow's udder, especially used as food.


  1. ^ Treble, H. A. An A.B.C. of English Usage. American ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 1937, page 133 [1]
  2. ^ elder”, in OED Online Paid subscription required, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, launched 2000.




elder inan

  1. slime

Norwegian Bokmål[edit]



  1. present of elde

Norwegian Nynorsk[edit]


elder f

  1. indefinite plural of elde



  1. present of elda

Old Swedish[edit]

Alternative forms[edit]


From Old Norse eldr, from Proto-Germanic *ailidaz.


elder m

  1. fire
  2. a skin disease - possibly erysipelas



  • Swedish: eld