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From Middle English auncyen, borrowed from Old French ancien (old), from Vulgar Latin root *anteanus, from Latin ante (before). Compare antique.


  • IPA(key): /ˈeɪn.(t)ʃənt/
  • (file)


ancient (comparative ancienter or more ancient, superlative ancientest or most ancient)

  1. Having lasted from a remote period; having been of long duration; of great age; very old.
    • 1963, Margery Allingham, “Foreword”, in The China Governess[1]:
      ‘I understand that the district was considered a sort of sanctuary,’ the Chief was saying. ‘An Alsatia like the ancient one behind the Strand, or the Saffron Hill before the First World War. […]’
    an ancient city;  an ancient forest
  2. Existent or occurring in time long past, usually in remote ages; belonging to or associated with antiquity; old, as opposed to modern.
    • 2006, Edwin Black, chapter 2, in Internal Combustion[2]:
      Buried within the Mediterranean littoral are some seventy to ninety million tons of slag from ancient smelting, about a third of it concentrated in Iberia. This ceaseless industrial fueling caused the deforestation of an estimated fifty to seventy million acres of woodlands.
    • 2013 July-August, Henry Petroski, “Geothermal Energy”, in American Scientist, volume 101, number 4:
      Energy has seldom been found where we need it when we want it. Ancient nomads, wishing to ward off the evening chill and enjoy a meal around a campfire, had to collect wood and then spend time and effort coaxing the heat of friction out from between sticks to kindle a flame. With more settled people, animals were harnessed to capstans or caged in treadmills to turn grist into meal.
    an ancient author;  an ancient empire
  3. (historical) Relating to antiquity as a primarily European historical period; the time before the Middle Ages.
  4. (obsolete) Experienced; versed.
    • Berners
      Though [he] was the youngest brother, yet he was the most ancient in the business of the realm.
  5. (obsolete) Former; sometime.
    • Alexander Pope
      They mourned their ancient leader lost.


Derived termsEdit

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The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


ancient (plural ancients)

  1. A person who is very old.
  2. A person who lived in ancient times.
  3. (heraldry, archaic) A flag, banner, standard or ensign.
    • 1719, Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe
      I got all things ready as he had directed, and waited the next morning with the boat washed clean, her ancient and pendants out, and everything to accommodate his guests..
  4. (Britain, law) One of the senior members of the Inns of Court or of Chancery.
  5. (obsolete) A senior; an elder; a predecessor.
    • Hooker
      Junius and Andronicus [] in Christianity [] were his ancients.