ar·​cha·​ic | \är-ˈkā-ik \

Definition of archaic 

1 : 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.

2 : of, relating to, or characteristic of an earlier or more primitive time : antiquated archaic legal traditions

3 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

4 : surviving from an earlier period specifically : typical of a previously dominant evolutionary stage

5 capitalized : of or relating to the period from about 8000 b.c. to 1000 b.c. and the North American cultures of that time

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Other Words from archaic

archaically \ -​i-​k(ə-​)lē \ 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 The locals spoke a Slavish dialect so thick and archaic that it sounded as if they were chewing stale bread. — Bruce Sterling, Fantasy & Science Fiction, September 2005 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.
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Recent Examples on the Web

By the end of the 1920s, aether was discarded, archaic. Meg Neal, Popular Mechanics, "The Eternal Quest for Aether, the Cosmic Stuff That Never Was," 19 Oct. 2018 Across California, there are about 3,000 water agencies, remnants of an archaic system that until about two decades ago allowed anyone with a water source that could serve 15 or more people to seek a permit to create a community water system. Ruben Vives,, "Abolishing a water district isn't easy — even when it's accused of nepotism, mismanagement and delivering brown water," 7 July 2018 So voting-by-mail mostly violates increasingly archaic taboos, which mostly upsets political consultants who realize get-out-the-vote and persuasion strategies focused on Election Day only aren’t very efficient any more. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "The Joy of Voting by Mail," 26 May 2018 Breed praised Wiener’s approach, saying the current law, written in the 1960s, is archaic and frustrating. Rachel Swan, San Francisco Chronicle, "SF supervisors fail to lend support to Sen. Wiener’s conservatorship bill," 24 Apr. 2018 The battle for market share being fought on the feet of promising basketball players is a multi-billion-dollar business that has generally treated NCAA rules as archaic, exploitative and easily circumvented. Tim Sullivan, The Courier-Journal, "Rice's commission may want to take advantage of Skechers suing Adidas," 11 May 2018 Gilead is a theocracy built on archaic and arbitrary readings of scripture, but its principle tenet is simple: Some people deserve children more than others. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "Gilead in America," 20 June 2018 The comments prompted criticism on social media, with some saying that Pletnyova’s views were racist and archaic. Washington Post, "Russian official urges love at World Cup after backlash," 14 June 2018 That’s been a puzzle since its discovery in 2015, when bones from 14 individuals revealed a mixture of modern and archaic qualities. Kiona N. Smith, Ars Technica, "Homo naledi’s brain: Like ours, but smaller," 14 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'archaic.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of archaic

1810, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for archaic

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

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Statistics for archaic

Last Updated

12 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for archaic

The first known use of archaic was in 1810

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More Definitions for archaic



English Language Learners Definition of archaic

: old and no longer used

: old and no longer useful

: of or relating to ancient times


ar·​cha·​ic | \är-ˈkā-ik \

Kids Definition of archaic

: of, relating to, or existing from an earlier time archaic words archaic customs


ar·​cha·​ic | \är-ˈkā-ik \

Medical Definition of archaic 

1 : typical of a previously dominant evolutionary stage archaic features of a fossil skull

2 : 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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