an·​cient | \ ˈān(t)-shənt How to pronounce ancient (audio) , ˈāŋ(k)-shənt \

Definition of ancient

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : having had an existence of many years ancient customs
2 : of or relating to a remote period, to a time early in history, or to those living in such a period or time ancient Egyptians 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 studied both ancient and modern history
3 : having the qualities of age or long existence: such as
a : venerable


noun (1)

Definition of ancient (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : a person who lived in ancient times:
a ancients plural : the civilized people of antiquity especially : those of the classical nations (see classical sense 2a)
b : one of the classical authors Plutarch and other ancients
2 : an aged living being a penniless ancient
3 : an ancient coin


noun (2)

Definition of ancient (Entry 3 of 3)

1 archaic : ensign, standard, flag
2 obsolete : the bearer of an ensign

Other Words from ancient


ancientness noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for ancient

Synonyms: Adjective

Synonyms: Noun (1)

Antonyms: Adjective

Antonyms: Noun (1)

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Choose the Right Synonym for 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

Examples of ancient in a Sentence

Adjective The people in the village still observe the ancient customs of their ancestors. a grove of ancient oak trees The practice was more common in ancient times than it is now. the gods of the ancient Romans She studied both ancient and modern history.

First Known Use of ancient


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Noun (1)

1502, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Noun (2)

1554, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ancient

Adjective and Noun (1)

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

Noun (2)

alteration of ensign

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Time Traveler for ancient

Time Traveler

The first known use of ancient was in the 14th century

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Dictionary Entries Near ancient

ancien régime


ancient demesne

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Cite this Entry

“Ancient.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 20 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for ancient


an·​cient | \ ˈān-shənt How to pronounce ancient (audio) \

Kids Definition of ancient

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : very old ancient customs
2 : of or relating to a time long past or to those living in such a time ancient Egypt



Kids Definition of ancient (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a very old person
2 ancients plural : the civilized peoples of ancient times and especially of Greece and Rome



Legal Definition of ancient

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

Note: 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.

More from Merriam-Webster on ancient

Nglish: Translation of ancient for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ancient for Arabic Speakers


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