Definition of archaism in English:



  • 1A thing that is very old or old-fashioned, especially an archaic word or style of language or art.

    ‘conscious archaisms inspired by French harpsichord music’
    • ‘His translation of ‘Espergesia’ as ‘Epexegesis’ captures the power of this impossible word which some interpreters have considered to be a neologism and others an elusive archaism.’
    • ‘Anno Domini’ is at least honest about its cultural specificity, and its being an archaism can only make it more arbitrary, which is all to the good.’
    • ‘We're already losing the word, and I doubt my children will use it any more than I use archaisms from Postmodern English.’
    • ‘Legal language seems to rest on archaisms like ‘hereinafter.’’
    • ‘I have always seen the position of the traditional mayor as an amusing archaism.’
    • ‘The word ‘apparency’ draws attention to itself as a Latinate archaism, witty and precise.’
    • ‘In addition, he anticipated the modern poets in objurgating the custom of garnishing poems with archaisms.’
    • ‘For it, he drew on Renaissance technical terms, derivations, compounds, archaisms, polysemy, etymological meanings, and idioms.’
    • ‘Dafoe, Keitel, and most of the other actors, have distinctly American accents, and the script itself (by Paul Schrader) avoids archaisms in favor of an informal, almost modern sound.’
    • ‘The author, like many older scholars, seems incapable of using simple constructions such as ‘seventy years’, preferring archaisms such as ‘three score and ten’ that make the writing unnecessarily heavy.’
    • ‘The style is very literary and carefully wrought, filled with archaisms and with echoes of Lamb's master Sterne.’
    • ‘His correspondence is in an affected ‘Roman style’ with stilted and archaized diction; his narrative letters, even reported speech, are full of archaisms like ‘thee,’ ‘varlet,’ and ‘durst.’’
    • ‘But it does not follow that Aristotle was not at bottom a systematic thinker; and the theory of science expounded in the Posterior Analytics cannot be dismissed as an irrelevant archaism, a genuflection to Plato's ghost.’
    • ‘In diction that juxtaposes archaisms with a lyricism that defies easy explication, McCarthy offers not a simple subject position but a widening pool of imagistic encounter.’
    • ‘He was not happy with the strange inflections of the melodies, with their flattened 7ths and sharpened 6ths, and he was even more perplexed by the words: he had little English to begin with and the rustic archaisms only added to the problem.’
    • ‘If this optimism may seem unwarranted, at its best this type of research is sensitive to innovations and archaisms in the look and function of individual works, as well as to the social roles of their makers.’
    • ‘Berlioz, an opera composer denied access to the Opéra for years, used deliberate archaisms in L' Enfance du Christ, notable for its beautiful but un-Handelian choruses.’
    • ‘It also affected Russian poets, for example Mayakovsky, in their choice of peasant themes or use of deliberate archaisms, incorrect spellings, and other deviations from standard usage.’
    • ‘Their studios became the centre of Roman revivalist art, and the archaism of their style was admired by many foreign artists, including Ingres, Ford Madox Brown, and William Dyce, whose influence inspired the English Pre-Raphaelites.’
    • ‘The advantages of modern dress are many, but contemporary dress in English-speaking performances comes at the price of a conflict between the archaism of the language and the modernity of the clothes.’
    1. 1.1mass noun The use or conscious imitation of archaic styles or features in language or art.
      ‘Mozart's use of archaism’
      • ‘The terminology of appearance and essence in Lukacs' critique of expressionism thus echoed his analysis of the outer archaism and inner modernity of naturalism.’
      • ‘Language, never a Miller forte, is particularly troubling here: modern, but with a light dusting of archaism, which rings artificial.’
      • ‘The crux of the dispute is whether Ptolemy was the mainstream and Dorotheus the breakaway development, or Dorotheus the mainstream and Ptolemy a deliberate attempt at archaism, perhaps for artistic reasons.’
      • ‘On the other hand, there is no law against deliberate archaism.’
      • ‘It sounds like all the songs were recorded ten years ago, left in a vault to mature to archaism and then brought out in a fit of nostalgia.’


Mid 17th century: from modern Latin archaismus, from Greek arkhaismos, from arkhaizein ‘imitate archaic styles’, from arkhaios ‘ancient’, from arkhē ‘beginning’.