• synonyms


[eyn-shuh nt]
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  1. of or in time long past, especially before the end of the Western Roman Empire a.d. 476: ancient history.
  2. dating from a remote period; of great age: ancient rocks; ancient trees.
  3. very old; aged: an ancient folk tale.
  4. being old in wisdom and experience; venerable.
  5. old-fashioned or antique.
  1. a person who lived in ancient times.
  2. one of the classical writers of antiquity.
  3. a very old or aged person, especially if venerable or patriarchal.
  4. ancients,
    1. the civilized peoples, nations, or cultures of antiquity, as the Greeks, Romans, Hebrews, and Egyptians (usually preceded by the).
    2. the writers, artists, and philosophers of ancient times, especially those of Greece and Rome.

Origin of ancient1

1300–50; Middle English auncien < Anglo-French; Old French ancien < Vulgar Latin *antiānus, equivalent to Latin ante(ā) before (see ante-) + -ānus -an; late Middle English forms with -t- developed by confusion with the present participle ending -nt (see -ent)
Related formsan·cient·ness, noun

Synonym study

2, 3. Ancient, antiquated, antique, old-fashioned refer to something dating from the past. Ancient implies existence or first occurrence in a distant past: an ancient custom. Antiquated connotes something too old or no longer useful: an antiquated building. Antique suggests a curious or pleasing quality in something old: antique furniture. Old-fashioned may disparage something as being out of date or may approve something old as being superior: an old-fashioned hat; old-fashioned courtesy.


2, 3. new, modern.


[eyn-shuh nt]
noun Obsolete.
  1. the bearer of a flag.
  2. a flag, banner, or standard; ensign.

Origin of ancient2

1545–55; variant of ensign by confusion with ancient1
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for ancient

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The ancient priest who drew it must have placed it there for a definite purpose.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • So far, the story of ancient man has been the record of a wonderful achievement.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • All the systems of writing of the ancient people of Asia had one thing in common.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

  • Giles was their “ancient” and had charge of the banner, nor could it be doubted that he had flourished.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • But Babylon was made into one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

    Ancient Man

    Hendrik Willem van Loon

British Dictionary definitions for ancient


  1. dating from very long agoancient ruins
  2. very old; aged
  3. of the far past, esp before the collapse of the Western Roman Empire (476 ad)Compare medieval, modern
  4. law having existed since before the time of legal memory
  1. (often plural) a member of a civilized nation in the ancient world, esp a Greek, Roman, or Hebrew
  2. (often plural) one of the classical authors of Greek or Roman antiquity
  3. archaic an old man
Derived Formsancientness, noun

Word Origin

C14: from Old French ancien, from Vulgar Latin anteanus (unattested), from Latin ante before


noun archaic
  1. a flag or other banner; standard
  2. a standard-bearer; ensign

Word Origin

C16: changed from ensign through the influence of ancient 1
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Word Origin and History for ancient


mid-14c., auncyen, from Old French ancien "old, long-standing, ancient," from Vulgar Latin *anteanus, literally "from before," adjectivization of Latin ante "before, in front of, against" (from PIE *anti "against," locative singular of *ant- "front, forehead;" see ante). The parasitic -t dates from 15c. by influence of words in -ent.

Specifically, in history, "belonging to the period before the fall of the Western Roman Empire" (and contrasted with medieval and modern). In English law, "from before the Norman Conquest." Ancient of Days is from Dan. vii:9. Related: Anciently.


"standard-bearer," 1550s, a corruption of ensign. Archaic, but preserved in Shakespeare's character Aunchient Pistoll in "Henry V."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper