Meaning of OLD in English


old S1 W1 /əʊld $ oʊld/ BrE AmE adjective ( comparative older , superlative oldest )

[ Language: Old English ; Origin: eald ]

1 . NOT NEW something that is old has existed or been used for a long time OPP new :

a pair of old shoes

Some of the houses around here are very old.

one of our oldest traditions

The car’s getting old now, and things are starting to go wrong with it.

That story’s as old as the hills (=extremely old) .

2 .


a) someone who is old has lived for a very long time OPP young :

an old man

a home for old people

get/grow old

I can’t run around like I used to – I must be getting old.

b) the old [plural] people who are old:

the care of the old and sick

3 . AGE used to talk about how long a person or thing has lived or existed

five/ten/fifty etc years old

I can’t believe you’re nearly forty years old!

a house that’s 300 years old

How old are you?

Are you older than Sally?

You’re old enough to get your own breakfast now.

I’m not coming skating. I’m too old for that now.

five-year-old/ten-year-old etc somebody/something

a six-week-old baby

a 500-year-old sword

somebody is old enough to know better (=used to say that you think someone should behave more sensibly)

somebody is old enough to be his/her/your mother/father (=used to say that someone is too old to be having a sexual relationship with someone else)

4 . THAT YOU USED TO HAVE [only before noun] your old house, job, girlfriend etc is one that you used to have SYN former :

I met up with one of my old girlfriends at the weekend.

My old car was always breaking down.

That happened when we were still in the old house.

My old boss was awful!

old flame (=someone with whom you used to have a romantic relationship)

5 . FAMILIAR [only before noun] old things are things that are familiar to you because you have seen them or experienced them many times before:

It’s good to get back into the old routine.

I enjoyed seeing all the old familiar faces.

He comes out with the same old excuses every time!

⇨ it’s the same old story at ↑ story (9)

6 . VERY WELL KNOWN [only before noun] an old friend, enemy etc is someone you have known for a long time:

Bob’s an old friend of mine.

an old colleague

They’re old rivals.

7 . the old days times in the past

in the old days

In the old days people used to fetch water from the pump.

8 . the good old days/the bad old days an earlier time in your life, or in history, when things seemed better or worse than now:

We like to chat about the good old days.

9 . be/feel/look like your old self to feel or look better again after you have been ill or very unhappy:

It’s good to see you looking more like your old self again.

10 . any old thing/place/time etc spoken used to say that it does not matter which thing, place etc you choose:

Oh, just wear any old thing.

Phone any old time – I’m always here.

11 . any old how/way spoken in an untidy or careless way:

The papers had been dumped on my desk any old how.

12 . good/poor/silly old etc somebody spoken used to talk about someone you like:

Good old Keith!

You poor old thing!

13 . a good old something ( also a right old something British English ) spoken used to talk about something you enjoy:

We had a good old talk.

14 . old devil/rascal etc spoken used to talk about someone you like and admire:

You old devil! You were planning this all along!

15 . old fool/bastard/bat etc spoken not polite used to talk very rudely about someone you do not like:

the stupid old cow

16 . the old guard a group of people within an organization or club who do not like changes or new ideas:

He’ll never manage to persuade the old guard.

17 . be an old hand (at something) to have a lot of experience of something:

I’m an old hand at this game.

18 . be old before your time to look or behave like someone much older than you, especially because of difficulties in your life

19 . for old times’ sake if you do something for old times’ sake, you do it to remind yourself of a happy time in the past

20 . the old country especially American English the country that you were born in, but that you no longer live in, used especially to mean Europe

21 . an old head on young shoulders British English a young person who seems to think and behave like an older person

22 . pay/settle an old score to punish someone for something wrong that they did to you in the past

23 . of/from the old school old-fashioned and believing in old ideas and customs:

a doctor of the old school

24 . old wives’ tale a belief based on old ideas that are now considered to be untrue

25 . of old literary from a long time ago in the past:

the knights of old

26 . Old English/Old Icelandic etc an early form of English, Icelandic etc

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meaning 3)

■ phrases

▪ be 5/10/50 etc years old

My dad is 45 years old.

▪ a five-year-old/fifteen-year-old etc somebody/something

a three-year-old boy

▪ how old is …?

‘How old is your daughter?’ ‘She’s ten.’

▪ be too old for something

He was too old for military service.

▪ be old enough to do something

You’re old enough to help with the cooking.

▪ somebody is old enough to know better (=used when you think someone should behave more sensibly)

He’s old enough to know better, but he went and did it anyway!

▪ somebody is old enough to be sb’s mother/father (=used when you think that someone is much too old to be having a relationship with another person )

Why would she want to go out with someone who was old enough to be her father?

• • •


■ person

▪ old having lived for a long time:

an old man


I’m too old to learn a new language.

▪ elderly a polite word for old:

an elderly lady


a home for the elderly (=elderly people)


If you are elderly, you may be eligible for financial assistance.

▪ aging ( also ageing British English ) [only before noun] becoming old:

an ageing rock star


the problems of an ageing population

▪ aged /ˈeɪdʒəd, ˈeɪdʒɪd/ [only before noun] written aged relatives are very old:

aged parents


She had to look after her aged aunt.

▪ elder brother/sister especially British English [only before noun] an older brother or sister. Elder sounds more formal than older :

I have two elder brothers.

▪ ancient [not usually before noun] informal very old – used humorously:

I’ll be 30 next year – it sounds really ancient!

▪ be getting on (in years) informal to be fairly old:

He’s 60 now, so he’s getting on a bit.

▪ be over the hill ( also be past it British English ) informal to be too old to do something:

Everyone thinks you’re past it when you get to 40.

▪ geriatric [only before noun] relating to medical care and treatment for old people:

a geriatric hospital


geriatric patients

■ thing

▪ old :

an old car


an old Chinese saying

▪ ancient very old – used about things that existed thousands of years ago, or things that look very old:

ancient civilisations


an ancient Rolls Royce

▪ antique antique furniture, clocks, jewellery etc are old and often valuable:

an antique writing desk

▪ age-old used about traditions, problems, or situations that have existed for a very long time:

the age-old tradition of morris dancing


the age-old prejudice against women in positions of power


the age-old problem of nationalism


age-old hatreds between religious groups

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.