ar·​cha·​ic är-ˈkā-ik How to pronounce archaic (audio)
: having the characteristics of the language of the past and surviving chiefly in specialized uses
an archaic word

Note: In this dictionary the label archaic is affixed to words and senses relatively common in earlier times but infrequently used in present-day English.

: of, relating to, or characteristic of an earlier or more primitive time : antiquated
archaic legal traditions
capitalized : of or belonging to the early or formative phases of a culture or a period of artistic development
especially : of or belonging to the period leading up to the classical period of Greek culture
: surviving from an earlier period
specifically : typical of a previously dominant evolutionary stage
capitalized : of or relating to the period from about 8000 b.c. to 1000 b.c. and the North American cultures of that time
archaically adverb
Choose the Right Synonym for archaic

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 archaic in a Sentence

The author is a bluestocking, with a weakness for etymology and archaic religious texts, her body of work lauded for revealing the sacred in the ordinary. Kathryn Harrison, New York Times Book Review, 21 Dec. 2008
Europe's economic growth and productivity, Judt reminds us, for all the horror stories about archaic work regulations and inflexible labor markets, has remained impressive up to the current moment. John T. McGreevy, Commonweal, 24 Mar. 2006
Between the upper limit of radiocarbon dating (about 50 ka) and the lower limit of radiogenic potassium dating (about 0.5 Ma) there used to exist a chronological lacuna that I call the Gap. This temporal range encompasses the transition of archaic humans into fully modern forms, so the lack of a reliable means of dating fossils from the Gap was disconcerting. Ervan G. Garrison, Physics Today, October 2001
The company needs to update its archaic computer systems.
Recent Examples on the Web Kirsten Dunst isn’t worried about chasing her youth — or aligning with archaic Hollywood beauty standards. Michelle Lee, Peoplemag, 2 Apr. 2024 The law used by the owners of the Titanic Another archaic principle, the Limitation of Liability Act of 1851, could come into play when deciding who is responsible for paying what sort of compensation for the Baltimore incident. Nicole Goodkind, CNN, 31 Mar. 2024 See all Example Sentences for archaic 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'archaic.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French or Greek; French archaïque, from Greek archaïkos, from archaios

First Known Use

1810, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of archaic was in 1810

Dictionary Entries Near archaic

Cite this Entry

“Archaic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ar·​cha·​ic är-ˈkā-ik How to pronounce archaic (audio)
: of, relating to, characteristic of, or surviving from an earlier time
especially : no longer in general use
the archaic words "methinks" and "saith"

Medical Definition


ar·​cha·​ic är-ˈkā-ik How to pronounce archaic (audio)
: typical of a previously dominant evolutionary stage
archaic features of a fossil skull
: having the characteristics of primitive humans and their animal forebears especially as represented in the unconscious and appearing in behavior as manifestations of the unconscious

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