Meaning of “old” in the English Dictionary

"old" in British English

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uk /əʊld/ us /oʊld/

old adjective (NOT YOUNG/NEW)

A1 having lived or existed for many years:

an old man
We're all getting older.
I was shocked by how old he looked.
Now come on, you're old enough to tie your own shoelaces, Carlos.
I'm too old to be out in the clubs every night.
a beautiful old farm house in the country
a battered old car
That's an old joke - I've heard it about a thousand times.
I think this cheese is old, judging by the smell of it.
too old disapproving UK also a bit old, US also a little old

unsuitable because intended for older people:

Don't you think that book is too old for you?

More examples

  • A group of old men sat playing dominoes.
  • Many buildings in the old part of the city are falling down, and the government has no money to repair them.
  • As people get older, they often become set in their ways.
  • It would be a sacrilege to put a neon sign on that beautiful old building.
  • There's some wonderful calligraphy in these old manuscripts.

old adjective (WHAT AGE)

A1 used to describe or ask about someone's age:

How old is your father?
Rosie's six years old now.
It's not very dignified behaviour for a 54-year-old man.
He's a couple of years older than me.

More examples

  • An adult under British law is someone over 18 years old.
  • Most children in the UK remain in full-time education until they are at least 16 years old.
  • How old is his daughter?
  • The trial was held in camera because the accused was only 14 years old.
  • He asked me how old I was and, lying through my teeth, I said '29'.

old adjective (FROM THE PAST)

A2 [ before noun ] from a period in the past:

I saw my old English teacher last time I went home.
He bought me a new phone to replace my old one.
She showed me her old school.
I saw an old boyfriend of mine.
In my old job I had less responsibility.

More examples

  • After six months of chopping and changing, we've decided to go back to our old system.
  • Just by coincidence, I met my old school-mate again 50 years later.
  • It will only complicate the situation if we invite his old girlfriend as well.
  • The new Prime Minister is cultivating relationships with old Eastern Bloc countries.
  • The new house is not dissimilar to our old one except that it's a bit bigger.

old adjective (VERY FAMILIAR)

A2 [ before noun ] (especially of a friend) known for a long time:

She's one of my oldest friends - we met in kindergarten.

[ before noun ] informal used before someone's name when you are referring to or talking to them, to show that you know that person well and like them:

There's old Sara working away in the corner.
I hear poor old Frank's lost his job.

More examples

  • Dashed decent of you, old boy!
  • They did a few old hits as/for an encore.
  • "I can't eat this meat - it's too tough." "You old fusspot - give it here and I'll eat it!"
  • He's a miserable old git.
  • He's an insipid old bore.

oldnoun [ plural ]

uk /əʊld/ us /oʊld/
the old

More examples

  • The old are particularly vulnerable to these fraudsters.
  • These holidays are aimed at the old.
  • The old tend to have a different perspective on war.

old people considered together as a group:

These cuts in services will particularly affect the old.

(Definition of “old” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"old" in American English

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oldadjective [ -er/-est only ]

us /oʊld/

old adjective [ -er/-est only ] (EXISTING A LONG TIME)

having lived or existed for a long time in comparison to others of the same kind:

An old man lives there with his dog.
They have a beautiful old farm house in the country.
She got very depressed in her old age (= the time of her life when she was old).

old adjective [ -er/-est only ] (KNOWN A LONG TIME)

(esp. of a friend) known for a long time:

She’s one of my oldest friends.

infml Old is also used to show that you know and like someone:

Poor old Frank broke his arm.

old adjective [ -er/-est only ] (AGE)

having a particular age, or an age suited to a particular activity or condition:

a 14-year-old
Charlie is older than I.
You’re old enough to know better.

old adjective [ -er/-est only ] (PREVIOUS)

from a previous time or a period in the past; former :

Our old house in Lakewood burned down.
Sharon gave her old skates to her younger cousin.

(Definition of “old” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)