adjective ar·cha·ic \ är-ˈkā-ik \
|Updated on: 9 Jul 2018

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


play \-i-k(ə-)lē\ adverb

Examples of archaic in a Sentence

  1. 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 HarrisonNew York Times Book Review21 Dec. 2008
  2. 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. McGreevyCommonweal24 Mar. 2006
  3. The locals spoke a Slavish dialect so thick and archaic that it sounded as if they were chewing stale bread. —Bruce SterlingFantasy & Science FictionSeptember 2005
  4. 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. GarrisonPhysics TodayOctober 2001
  5. The company needs to update its archaic computer systems.

Recent Examples of archaic from the Web

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.

Origin and Etymology of archaic

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

Synonym Discussion of 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

ARCHAIC Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of archaic for English Language Learners

  • : old and no longer used

  • : old and no longer useful

  • : of or relating to ancient times

ARCHAIC Defined for Kids


adjective ar·cha·ic \ är-ˈkā-ik \

Definition of archaic for Students

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

Medical Dictionary


adjective 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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