old (ld) KEY
Middle English, from Old English eald; see al-2 in Indo-European roots
old, ancient1, archaic, antediluvian, antique, antiquated
These adjectives describe what belongs to or dates from an earlier time or period. Old is the most general term: old lace; an old saying. Ancient pertains to the distant past: "the hills,/Rock-ribbed, and ancient as the sun" (William Cullen Bryant). Archaic implies a very remote, often primitive period: an archaic Greek bronze of the seventh century b.c. Antediluvian applies to what is extremely outdated: "a branch of one of your antediluvian families" (William Congreve). Antique is applied to what is especially appreciated or valued because of its age: antique furniture; an antique vase. Antiquated describes what is out of date, no longer fashionable, or discredited: "No idea is so antiquated that it was not once modern. No idea is so modern that it will not someday be antiquated" (Ellen Glasgow).
Old is the bluntest of the adjectives most commonly used in referring to advanced or advancing age. It generally suggests at least a degree of age-related infirmity, and for that reason it is often avoided in formal or polite speech. Many prefer elderly as a more neutral and respectful term, but it too can suggest frailty, especially in reference to individuals as opposed to a group or population. And while senior enjoys wide usage as both a noun and adjective in many civic or social contexts, it is often considered unpleasantly euphemistic in a phrase such as the senior couple living next door.·As a comparative form, older would logically seem to indicate greater age than old. Except when a direct comparison is being made, however, the opposite is generally true. The older man in the tweed jacket suggests a somewhat younger or more vigorous man than if one substitutes old or elderly. Where old expresses an absolute, an arrival at old age, older takes a more relative view of aging as a continuumolder, but not yet old. As such, older is more than just a euphemism for the blunter old, offering as it does a more precise term for someone between middle and advanced age. And unlike elderly, older does not particularly suggest frailness or infirmity, making it the natural choice in many situations. See Usage Note at elder1.