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Old-fashioned language

Some words that were common in the past are no longer in ordinary use but remain in our stock of words. Many dictionaries divide this type of vocabulary into two categories.


Words and expressions described as archaic are those that haven't been in everyday use for a century or more. Some dictionaries describe such terms as ‘old use,’ or ‘old-fashioned use.’ You are unlikely to hear anyone using these terms in everyday conversation, or to come across them in modern writing, but you will encounter them in the literature of the past.

Here are some examples:

standard English old use
bedroom bedchamber
frighten affright
perhaps peradventure
willing fain

This category of vocabulary is sometimes used to give a deliberately old-fashioned effect, for example in historical novels. Some writers also use it to amuse people.


Words and expressions described as dated may still be used occasionally, especially by older people, but they are no longer used by most English speakers. Here are some examples of dated words:

standard English dated
boyfriend beau
educated lettered
hurry make haste
nonsense bunkum
refrigerator icebox

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Grammar and usage