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adjective an·cient \ˈān(t)-shənt, ˈāŋ(k)-shənt\

Simple Definition of ancient

  • : very old : having lived or existed for a very long time

  • : of, coming from, or belonging to a time that was long ago in the past

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of ancient

  1. 1 :  having had an existence of many years

  2. 2 :  of or relating to a remote period, to a time early in history, or to those living in such a period or time; especially :  of or relating to the historical period beginning with the earliest known civilizations and extending to the fall of the western Roman Empire in a.d. 476

  3. 3 :  having the qualities of age or long existence: as a :  venerable b :  old-fashioned, antique



Examples of ancient in a sentence

  1. The people in the village still observe the ancient customs of their ancestors.

  2. a grove of ancient oak trees

  3. The practice was more common in ancient times than it is now.

  4. the gods of the ancient Romans

  5. She studied both ancient and modern history.

Origin and Etymology of ancient

Middle English ancien, from Anglo-French, from Vulgar Latin *anteanus, from Latin ante before — more at ante-

First Known Use: 14th century

Synonym Discussion of ancient

old, ancient, venerable, antique, antiquated, archaic, obsolete mean having come into existence or use in the more or less distant past. old may apply to either actual or merely relative length of existence <old houses> <an old sweater of mine>. ancient applies to occurrence, existence, or use in or survival from the distant past <ancient accounts of dragons>. venerable stresses the impressiveness and dignity of great age <the family's venerable patriarch>. antique applies to what has come down from a former or ancient time <collected antique Chippendale furniture>. antiquated implies being discredited or outmoded or otherwise inappropriate to the present time <antiquated teaching methods>. archaic implies having the character or characteristics of a much earlier time <the play used archaic language to convey a sense of period>. obsolete may apply to something regarded as no longer acceptable or useful even though it is still in existence <a computer that makes earlier models obsolete>.



noun an·cient

Definition of ancient

  1. 1 :  an aged living being <a penniless ancient>

  2. 2 :  a person who lived in ancient times: a plural :  the civilized people of antiquity; especially :  those of the classical nations b :  one of the classical authors <Plutarch and other ancients>

  3. 3 :  an ancient coin


First Known Use of ancient




noun an·cient

Definition of ancient

  1. 1 archaic :  ensign, standard, flag

  2. 2 obsolete :  the bearer of an ensign

Origin and Etymology of ancient

alteration of ensign

First Known Use: 1554

ANCIENT Defined for Kids



adjective an·cient \ˈān-shənt\

Definition of ancient for Students

  1. 1 :  very old <ancient customs>

  2. 2 :  of or relating to a time long past or to those living in such a time <ancient Egypt>



noun an·cient

Definition of ancient for Students

  1. 1 :  a very old person

  2. 2 ancients plural :  the civilized peoples of ancient times and especially of Greece and Rome

Law Dictionary


adjective an·cient

Legal Definition of ancient

  1. :  existing from a long past date; specifically :  having had an uninterrupted existence of 20 to 30 or more years

Additional Notes on ancient

Things and especially documents that are ancient benefit from a presumption that they are valid even though proof of their validity may be unavailable due to lapse of memory, absence of witnesses, or loss of documents.

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up ancient? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


of or relating to the heavens

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