ancient

1 of 3

adjective

an·​cient ˈān(t)-shənt How to pronounce ancient (audio)
ˈāŋ(k)-shənt
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
ancientness noun

ancient

2 of 3

noun (1)

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

ancient

3 of 3

noun (2)

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

Example Sentences

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.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

Adjective

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near ancient

Cite this Entry

“Ancient.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ancient. Accessed 1 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

ancient 1 of 2

adjective

an·​cient ˈān-shənt How to pronounce ancient (audio)
-chənt;
ˈāŋ(k)-shənt
1
: having existed for many years
ancient customs
2
: of or relating to a period of time long past
3
ancientness noun

ancient

2 of 2

noun

1
: an aged person
2
plural : the civilized peoples of ancient times and especially of Greece and Rome

Legal Definition

ancient

adjective

an·​cient
: 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

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