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elder1

[el-der]
See more synonyms for elder on Thesaurus.com
adjective a compar. of old with eldest as superl.
  1. of greater age; older.
  2. of higher rank; senior: an elder officer.
  3. of or relating to former times; earlier: Much that was forbidden by elder custom is accepted today.
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noun
  1. a person who is older or higher in rank than oneself.
  2. an aged person.
  3. an influential member of a tribe or community, often a chief or ruler; a superior.
  4. a presbyter.
  5. (in certain Protestant churches) a lay member who is a governing officer, often assisting the pastor in services.
  6. Mormon Church. a member of the Melchizedek priesthood.
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Origin of elder1

before 900; Middle English; Old English eldra, comparative of eald old
Can be confusedelder older (see synonym study at older)

Synonyms

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1. See older.

Antonyms

elder2

[el-der]
noun
  1. any tree or shrub belonging to the genus Sambucus, of the honeysuckle family, having pinnate leaves, clusters of white flowers, and red or black, berrylike fruit.
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Origin of elder2

before 900; Middle English eldre, elrene, ellerne, Old English ellærn; cognate with Middle Low German ellern

old

[ohld]
adjective, old·er, old·est or eld·er, eld·est.
  1. far advanced in the years of one's or its life: an old man; an old horse; an old tree.
  2. of or relating to the latter part of the life or term of existence of a person or thing: old age.
  3. as if or appearing to be far advanced in years: Worry had made him old.
  4. having lived or existed for a specified time: a man 30 years old; a century-old organization.
  5. having lived or existed as specified with relation to younger or newer persons or things: Jim is our oldest boy.
  6. having been aged for a specified time: This whiskey is eight years old.
  7. having been aged for a comparatively long time: old brandy.
  8. long known or in use: the same old excuse.
  9. overfamiliar to the point of tedium: Some jokes get old fast.
  10. belonging to the past: the good old days.
  11. having been in existence since the distant past: a fine old family.
  12. no longer in general use: This typewriter is an old model.
  13. acquired, made, or in use by one prior to the acquisition, making, or use of something more recent: When the new house was built, we sold the old one.
  14. of, relating to, or originating at an earlier period or date: old maps.
  15. prehistoric; ancient: There may have been an old land bridge between Asia and Alaska.
  16. (initial capital letter) (of a language) in its oldest known period, as attested by the earliest written records: Old Czech.
  17. experienced: He's an old hand at welding.
  18. of long standing; having been such for a comparatively long time: an old and trusted employee.
  19. (of colors) dull, faded, or subdued: old rose.
  20. deteriorated through age or long use; worn, decayed, or dilapidated: old clothes.
  21. Physical Geography. (of landforms) far advanced in reduction by erosion or the like.
  22. sedate, sensible, mature, or wise: That child seems old beyond his years.
  23. (used to indicate affection, familiarity, disparagement, or a personalization): good old Bob; that dirty old jalopy.
  24. Informal. (used as an intensive) great; uncommon: a high old time.
  25. former; having been so formerly: a dinner for his old students.
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noun
  1. (used with a plural verb) old persons collectively (usually preceded by the): appropriations to care for the old.
  2. a person or animal of a specified age or age group (used in combination): a class for six-year-olds; a horse race for three-year-olds.
  3. old or former time, often time long past: days of old.
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Origin of old

before 900; Middle English; Old English eald, ald; cognate with Dutch old, German alt, Gothic altheis; akin to Old Norse ala to nourish
Related formsold·ness, noun

Synonyms

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1. Old, aged, elderly all mean well along in years. An old person has lived long, nearly to the end of the usual period of life. An aged person is very far advanced in years, and is usually afflicted with the infirmities of age. An elderly person is somewhat old, but usually has the mellowness, satisfactions, and joys of age ahead. 9. olden, early.

Antonyms

1. young.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

older, senior, veteran, patriarch, ancient, oldster, superior, matriarch, ancestor, earlier, first-born, oldest

Examples from the Web for elder

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The elder Milbrey, too, had met her at his son's suggestion.

    The Spenders

    Harry Leon Wilson

  • Well, it might be—why had he not selected an elder member of the Church?

  • The young girl shrank from the effort, but the elder lady was inflexible.

    Malbone

    Thomas Wentworth Higginson

  • He was the head of the school when I, the elder, was a lout in the lower fourth.

    Viviette

    William J. Locke

  • As to your question, Why your elder sister may not be first provided for?

    Clarissa, Volume 1 (of 9)

    Samuel Richardson


British Dictionary definitions for elder

elder1

adjective
  1. born earlier; seniorCompare older
  2. (in piquet and similar card games) denoting or relating to the nondealer (the elder hand), who has certain advantages in the play
  3. archaic
    1. prior in rank, position, or office
    2. of a previous time; former
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noun
  1. an older person; one's senior
  2. anthropol a senior member of a tribe who has influence or authority
  3. (in certain Protestant Churches) a lay office having teaching, pastoral, or administrative functions
  4. another word for presbyter
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Derived Formseldership, noun

Word Origin

Old English eldra, comparative of eald old; related to Old Norse ellri, Old High German altiro, Gothic althiza

usage

The word elder is being increasingly used, as a more respectful way of referring to older people: elder care, elder abuse

elder2

noun
  1. Also called: elderberry any of various caprifoliaceous shrubs or small trees of the genus Sambucus, having clusters of small white flowers and red, purple, or black berry-like fruits
  2. any of various unrelated plants, such as box elder and marsh elder
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Compare alder

Word Origin

Old English ellern; related to Old Norse elrir, Old High German erlīn, Old Slavonic jelǐcha, Latin alnus

Elder

noun
  1. Sir Mark Philip. born 1947, British conductor; musical director of the English National Opera (1979–93) and of the Hallé Orchestra from 2000
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old

adjective
  1. having lived or existed for a relatively long timean old man; an old tradition; old wine; an old house; an old country
    1. of or relating to advanced years or a long lifeold age
    2. (as collective noun; preceded by the)the old
    3. old and youngpeople of all ages
  2. decrepit or senile
  3. worn with age or useold clothes; an old car
    1. (postpositive)having lived or existed for a specified perioda child who is six years old
    2. (in combination)a six-year-old child
    3. (as noun in combination)a six-year-old
  4. (capital when part of a name or title) earlier or earliest of two or more things with the same namethe old edition; the Old Testament; old Norwich
  5. (capital when part of a name) designating the form of a language in which the earliest known records are writtenOld English
  6. (prenominal) familiar through long acquaintance or repetitionan old friend; an old excuse
  7. practised; hardenedold in cunning
  8. (prenominal often preceded by good) cherished; dear: used as a term of affection or familiaritygood old George
  9. informal (with any of several nouns) used as a familiar form of address to a personold thing; old bean; old stick; old fellow
  10. skilled through long experience (esp in the phrase an old hand)
  11. out-of-date; unfashionable
  12. remote or distant in origin or time of originan old culture
  13. (prenominal) former; previousmy old house was small
    1. (prenominal)established for a relatively long timean old member
    2. (in combination)old-established
  14. sensible, wise, or matureold beyond one's years
  15. (of a river, valley, or land surface) in the final stage of the cycle of erosion, characterized by flat extensive flood plains and minimum reliefSee also youthful (def. 4), mature (def. 6)
  16. (intensifier) (esp in phrases such as a good old time, any old thing, any old how, etc)
  17. (of crops) harvested late
  18. good old days an earlier period of time regarded as better than the present
  19. little old informal indicating affection, esp humorous affectionmy little old wife
  20. the old one or the old gentleman informal a jocular name for Satan
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noun
  1. an earlier or past time (esp in the phrase of old)in days of old
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Derived Formsoldish, adjectiveoldness, noun

Word Origin

Old English eald; related to Old Saxon ald, Old High German, German alt, Latin altus high

usage

Many people nowadays prefer to talk about older people rather than old people, and the phrase the old is best avoided altogether
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 elder

adj.

"more old," Old English (Mercian) eldra, comparative of eald, ald (see old); only English survival of umlaut in comparison. Superseded by older since 16c. Elder statesman (1921) originally was a translation of Japanese genro (plural).

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n.2

type of berry tree, c.1400, from earlier ellen, from Old English ellæn, ellærn "elderberry tree," origin unknown, perhaps related to alder. Common Germanic, cf. Old Saxon elora, Middle Low German elre, Old High German elira, German Eller, Erle. Related: Elderberry.

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n.1

"senior citizen," c.1200, from Old English eldra "older person, parent" (used in biblical translation for Greek presbyter); see elder (adj.). The Old English for "grandfather" was ealdfæder.

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old

adj.

Old English ald (Anglian), eald (West Saxon) "aged, antique, primeval; elder, experienced," from West Germanic *althas "grown up, adult" (cf. Old Frisian ald, Gothic alþeis, Dutch oud, German alt), originally a past participle stem of a verb meaning "grow, nourish" (cf. Gothic alan "to grow up," Old Norse ala "to nourish"), from PIE root *al- "to grow, nourish" (cf. Greek aldaino "make grow, strengthen," althein, althainein "to get well;" Latin alere "to feed, nourish, bring up, increase," altus "high," literally "grown tall," almus "nurturing, nourishing," alumnus "fosterling, step-child;" Old Irish alim "I nourish").

The usual PIE root is *sen- (see senior (adj.)). A few Indo-European languages distinguish words for "old" (vs. young) from words for "old" (vs. new), and some have separate words for aged persons as opposed to old things. Latin senex was used of aged living things, mostly persons, while vetus (literally "having many years") was used of inanimate things. Greek geraios was used mostly of humans; Greek palaios was used mostly of things, of persons only in a derogatory sense. Greek also had arkhaios, literally "belonging to the beginning," which parallels French ancien, used mostly with reference to things "of former times."

Old English also had fyrn "ancient," related to Old English feor "far, distant" (see far, and cf. Gothic fairneis, Old Norse forn "old, of old, of former times," Old High German firni "old, experienced"). The original Old English vowel is preserved in Scots auld, also in alderman. The original comparative and superlative (elder, eldest) are retained in particular uses.

First record of old-timer is from 1860. Expression old as the hills first recorded 1819. The good old days dates from 1828. Of old "of old times" is from late 14c. Old Glory for "the American flag" is first attested 1862. Old maid "woman who remains single well beyond the usual marrying age" is from 1520s; the card game is attested by that name from 1844. Old man "man who has lived long" is from c.1200; sense of "husband, father, boss" is from 1854, earlier (1830) it was military slang for "commanding officer;" old lady "wife, mother" is attested from c.1775. Old English is attested from 1701, originally as a type of font. Old boy originally was a former pupil of one of the English public schools. Old Testament attested from mid-14c.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with elder

old

In addition to the idioms beginning with old

  • old as Adam
  • old chestnut
  • old college try, the
  • old saw
  • old shoe
  • old stamping ground
  • old story, an
  • old wives' tale

also see:

  • any old
  • chip off the old block
  • comfortable as an old shoe
  • dirty joke (old man)
  • get the air (old heave-ho)
  • no fool like an old fool
  • of old
  • ripe old age
  • same old story
  • settle a score (old scores)
  • stamping ground, old
  • teach an old dog new tricks
  • up to one's old tricks
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The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.