1 [el-der]
adjective a compar. of old with eldest as superl.
of greater age; older.
of higher rank; senior: an elder officer.
of or pertaining to former times; earlier: Much that was forbidden by elder custom is accepted today.
a person who is older or higher in rank than oneself.
an aged person.
an influential member of a tribe or community, often a chief or ruler; a superior.
a presbyter.
(in certain Protestant churches) a lay member who is a governing officer, often assisting the pastor in services.
Mormon Church. a member of the Melchizedek priesthood.

before 900; Middle English; Old English eldra, comparative of eald old

1. See older.

1. younger.
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2 [el-der]
any tree or shrub belonging to the genus Sambucus, of the honeysuckle family, having pinnate leaves, clusters of white flowers, and red or black, berrylike fruit.

before 900; Middle English eldre, elrene, ellerne, Old English ellærn; cognate with Middle Low German ellern

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World English Dictionary
elder1 (ˈɛldə)
1.  Compare older born earlier; senior
2.  (in piquet and similar card games) denoting or relating to the nondealer (the elder hand), who has certain advantages in the play
3.  archaic
 a.  prior in rank, position, or office
 b.  of a previous time; former
4.  an older person; one's senior
5.  anthropol a senior member of a tribe who has influence or authority
6.  (in certain Protestant Churches) a lay office having teaching, pastoral, or administrative functions
7.  another word for presbyter
[Old English eldra, comparative of ealdold; related to Old Norse ellri, Old High German altiro, Gothic althiza]
usage  The word elder is being increasingly used, as a more respectful way of referring to older people: elder care, elder abuse

elder2 (ˈɛldə)
1.  Also called: elderberry any of various caprifoliaceous shrubs or small trees of the genus Sambucus, having clusters of small white flowers and red, purple, or black berry-like fruits
2.  any of various unrelated plants, such as box elder and marsh elder
[Old English ellern; related to Old Norse elrir, Old High German erlīn, Old Slavonic jelǐcha, Latin alnus]

Elder (ˈɛldə)
Mark Philip. born 1947, British conductor; musical director of the English National Opera (1979--93) and of the Hallé Orchestra from 2000

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

O.E. ellæn, ellærn "elderberry tree," origin unknown, perhaps related to alder.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Bible Dictionary

Elder definition

a name frequently used in the Old Testament as denoting a person clothed with authority, and entitled to respect and reverence (Gen. 50:7). It also denoted a political office (Num. 22:7). The "elders of Israel" held a rank among the people indicative of authority. Moses opened his commission to them (Ex. 3:16). They attended Moses on all important occasions. Seventy of them attended on him at the giving of the law (Ex. 24:1). Seventy also were selected from the whole number to bear with Moses the burden of the people (Num. 11:16, 17). The "elder" is the keystone of the social and political fabric wherever the patriarchal system exists. At the present day this is the case among the Arabs, where the sheik (i.e., "the old man") is the highest authority in the tribe. The body of the "elders" of Israel were the representatives of the people from the very first, and were recognized as such by Moses. All down through the history of the Jews we find mention made of the elders as exercising authority among the people. They appear as governors (Deut. 31:28), as local magistrates (16:18), administering justice (19:12). They were men of extensive influence (1 Sam. 30:26-31). In New Testament times they also appear taking an active part in public affairs (Matt. 16:21; 21:23; 26:59). The Jewish eldership was transferred from the old dispensation to the new. "The creation of the office of elder is nowhere recorded in the New Testament, as in the case of deacons and apostles, because the latter offices were created to meet new and special emergencies, while the former was transmitted from the earlies times. In other words, the office of elder was the only permanent essential office of the church under either dispensation." The "elders" of the New Testament church were the "pastors" (Eph. 4:11), "bishops or overseers" (Acts 20:28), "leaders" and "rulers" (Heb. 13:7; 1 Thess. 5:12) of the flock. Everywhere in the New Testament bishop and presbyter are titles given to one and the same officer of the Christian church. He who is called presbyter or elder on account of his age or gravity is also called bishop or overseer with reference to the duty that lay upon him (Titus 1:5-7; Acts 20:17-28; Phil. 1:1).

Easton's 1897 Bible Dictionary
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Example sentences
It was migrating westward and taking great risks in pursuit of new
  opportunities its elders had not enjoyed.
Teenagers, elders and amputees have attempted the mountain in the past two
The guardians, the elders and their media, want it back.
Jerry and his team were already shaking hands with the a few village elders
  still standing around.
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