ar·​cha·​ic | \ är-ˈkā-ik How to pronounce archaic (audio) \

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 \ är-​ˈkā-​i-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce archaic (audio) \ 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 The researchers then sequenced the participants’ whole genomes from the banked samples and compared them to genomes from reference databases, including those of modern people in Near Oceania and extinct archaic humans, Neanderthals and Denisovans. Michael Price, Science | AAAS, "Study reveals ‘exciting’ history of humans in Pacific. But critics blast lack of Indigenous input," 14 Apr. 2021 Depending on your appetite for all things Trump, this leaves the book feeling pleasantly retro or frustratingly archaic. Chris Megerian, Los Angeles Times, "Review: Belly up to the bar with John Boehner for nostalgic tales of government paralysis," 9 Apr. 2021 Longer-term, there are things a new mayor could do to make the development process more predictable, like cleaning up the city’s archaic zoning code and continuing the raft of neighborhood planning and zoning studies launched under Walsh. Tim Logan,, "Housing is one of the biggest challenges facing Boston’s next mayor," 27 Jan. 2021 However, that process is archaic and depends heavily on the Post Office. Kyle Whitmire, al, "Whitmire: The fuse John Merrill’s downfall lit," 18 Apr. 2021 Absolutely archaic and racist studio notes aside, clearly Hall and Murphy had good taste. Chris Murphy, Vulture, "Minari’s Alan Kim and His Purple Belt Won Late Night This Week," 6 Mar. 2021 That is an archaic structure that may well need to change. Editorial Board, Star Tribune, "U.S. Capitol needs stronger police force," 6 Apr. 2021 Behind the view of an iron mask, an unknown woman’s cries are muffled; the fleshy explosions emanating from a mallet striking her metal visage fills our ears with the archaic scene. Robert Daniels, Los Angeles Times, "Review: The gothic terror and limited scares of ‘The Unholy’ bog down in tired tropes," 1 Apr. 2021 Sculptures of the monster from the archaic Greek period, roughly 700 to 480 B.C., are mostly androgynous figures. Nora Mcgreevy, Smithsonian Magazine, "Why So Many Mythological Monsters Are Female," 31 Mar. 2021

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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Time Traveler for archaic

Time Traveler

The first known use of archaic was in 1810

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Statistics for archaic

Last Updated

8 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Archaic.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 9 May. 2021.

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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 How to pronounce archaic (audio) \

Kids Definition of archaic

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


ar·​cha·​ic | \ är-ˈkā-ik How to pronounce archaic (audio) \

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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