A word or phrase (or a particular meaning of a word or phrase) that is considered extremely old fashioned and long out of common use. Adjective: archaic.
Linguist Tom McArthur notes that literary archaism occurs "when a style is modeled on older works, so as to revive earlier practices or achieve a desired effect" (Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language, 2005).
Etymology:From the Greek, "ancient, beginning"
Examples and Observations:
- "The old man raised the axe and split the head of John Joel Glanton to the thrapple."
(Cormac McCarthy, Blood Meridian, 1985)
- "[Nick Faldo] speaks in a jaunty, clipped, wised-up vernacular, mixing street-smart patter with solid analysis. His vocabulary is rich in curious archaisms--'jeepers,' 'crumbs,' 'gee'--and eccentric asides."
(Jason Cowley, "Nick's Second Coming." The Guardian, Oct. 1, 2006)
- 19th-Century Archaisms
"We do not have to go back as far as Elizabethan English or the Middle Ages to encounter archaisms. Here are some from the Victorian and Edwardian eras:
beastly (as in 'so beastly critical')And might we not say that daddy-o is an archaism, even though it was alive and well in the 1960s?"
blest, deuced (if I know)
capital! (as an exclamation of delight)
very civil (of you)
pray (come in)
(David Crystal, Words, Words, Words. Oxford Univ. Press, 2006)
- 20th-Century Archaisms
"Among the technological archaisms I've had to explain to the Tuned In children--what a 'record' is, why they call it 'dialing' a phone, the fact that, once, you couldn't rewind TV shows--is the fact that, a long time ago, musicians used to make little movies of their songs, and people would watch them on TV."
(James Poniewozik, "Wake Up and Smell the Cat Food in Your Bank Account." Time magazine, May 2, 2007)
"It is rather odd to see that the OED [Oxford English Dictionary] defines the word care as 'some kind of stuff.'
"This seems at first glance to be a rather nonspecific definition to find in what is arguably the greatest dictionary ever created. But it is actually very specific--just a bit archaic. The word stuff has had a variety of meanings through the ages, and at the time that this definition was written, in 1888, it referred to (among other things) 'a woollen fabric' or 'material for the gown worn by a junior counsel.'"
(Ammon Shea, "Dated Definitions." The New York Times, Aug. 12, 2009)
- The Lighter Side of Archaisms
Frank Rossitano: Yo Tray, we got a problem.
Tracy Jordan as President Thomas Jefferson: Pray, who be this Tracy Jordan thou speakest of?
Frank: Eh, President Jefferson, we got a problem.
Frank Rossitano: That horse ate your wig.
Tracy: Well, stand guard by his rump and await it in his droppings.
(Judah Friedlander and Tracy Morgan in "Corporate Crush." 30 Rock, 2007)