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[ahr-key-ik] /ɑrˈkeɪ ɪk/
marked by the characteristics of an earlier period; antiquated:
an archaic manner; an archaic notion.
(of a linguistic form) commonly used in an earlier time but rare in present-day usage except to suggest the older time, as in religious rituals or historical novels. Examples:
thou; wast; methinks; forsooth.
forming the earliest stage; prior to full development:
the archaic period of psychoanalytic research.
(often initial capital letter) pertaining to or designating the style of the fine arts, especially painting and sculpture, developed in Greece from the middle 7th to the early 5th century b.c., chiefly characterized by an increased emphasis on the human figure in action, naturalistic proportions and anatomical structure, simplicity of volumes, forms, or design, and the evolution of a definitive style for the narrative treatment of subject matter.
Compare classical (def 6), Hellenistic (def 5).
primitive; ancient; old:
an archaic form of animal life.
1825-35; (< F) < Greek archaïkós antiquated, old-fashioned, equivalent to archaî(os) old + -ikos -ic
Related forms
archaically, adverb
pseudoarchaic, adjective
pseudoarchaically, adverb
Can be confused
archaic, obsolescent, obsolete.
Usage note
Archaic is used as a label in this dictionary for terms and definitions that were current roughly as late as 1900 but are now employed only as conscious archaisms, as described and exemplified in definition 2 above. An archaic term is generally more recognizable, as when encountered in literature, than one labeled Obsolete. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for archaic
  • Consequently, we are reverting to our slightly archaic yet highly personalized accounting methods.
  • The archaic primates were very successful.
  • It sounds archaic, but I really enjoyed college.
  • Seasonal adjustment seems to have been applied in a crude and archaic fashion.
  • The Neanderthal achieved similar ability, remaining archaic in form to the end.
  • He persisted in the archaic belief that swallows wintered at the bottom of lakes.
  • The spelling of the quarto text is more archaic than that of the first folio.
  • There is something chivalric and archaic about this form of political courage.
  • Of course primitive cultures have archaic structures and practices.
  • With archaic humans, culture changed very slowly.
British Dictionary definitions for archaic


belonging to or characteristic of a much earlier period; ancient
out of date; antiquated: an archaic prison system
(of idiom, vocabulary, etc) characteristic of an earlier period of a language and not in ordinary use
Derived Forms
archaically, adverb
Word Origin
C19: from French archaïque, from Greek arkhaïkos, from arkhaios ancient, from arkhē beginning, from arkhein to begin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for archaic

1810, from or by influence of French archaique (1776), ultimately from Greek arkhaikos "old-fashioned," from arkhaios "ancient," from arkhe "beginning" (see archon). Archaical is attested from 1799.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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