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Antediluvian

The adjective antediluvian is a term used for things that come from before the time of the great flood in the Bible. It is also used when something is out-of-date or extremely aged. The connotation is humorous since the speaker is referring to the object as being from before the flood, which happened thousands of years ago.

Antediluvian can also be used as a noun.

According to Google’s ngram, the popularity of the word has faded since the early nineteenth century. Though it is used more frequently outside the United States than inside.


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As far as pronunciation goes, there are a two ways to say antediluvian that are accepted by the dictionary. Either \an-ti-də-ˈlü-vē-ən\ or \an-ti-dī-ˈlü-vē-ən\, with the United States preferring the first and elsewhere preferring the latter.

Examples

Instead, this antediluvian law had heaped insult on injury by turning them into felons. [Indian Express]

How much better, one wonders, could it have been if, instead of sloshing through the enormous puddle the long way from the main entrance doors, Grimaud has taken her place from dry land and begun her program? If then the waters had come, would it have created an antediluvian sense of suspense scored by sound and brought the audience along better through the journey? [New York Observer]

Hura is something of an antediluvian. He plays the part of the archetypal artist toiling away in isolation, often in privation but indifferent to the fame his work begets him. [Deccan Herald]

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Comments

  1. Tyler Hibbard says:

    Antediluvian simply means “before a great flood”, not necessarily the fable from the Bible.

    • Francis Zanger says:

      Mr. Hibbard, I’m afraid I’m going to have to disagree. The word was coined when there was only one “Great Flood”.

      I also have to wonder– how many other ‘great floods’ do you know of? I doubt that you think the word comes to us from Ancient Sumerian!

      And, on a website dedicated to the use of words, you must surely understand that when you refer to “the fable from the Bible,” you are being pretty transparent about having an agenda other than grammar. Is this really the best forum for your feelings regarding religion?

      • Tyler Hibbard says:

        Hi Tired_&_Retired, unfortunately you’re mistaken on a few things. Nothing in my post has anything to do with religion except to reference the article (necessary in order to understand the comment, I think you would agree). I have no religious agenda here, so please, let’s avoid strawmen, shall we? :-)

        I don’t dispute the coinage of the term whatsoever. What I am disputing is the narrowness of the definition given above; etymologically, the word means literally “before a great deluge occurred”. This could be the fabled flood from the Bible, yes. It could also be a huge flood occurring after a large dam break or explosion that floods land downstream.

        The point here is that the origin of an ancient word is not the determining factor on how it is used in modern day language.

  2. J. C. Smith says:

    “…the popularity of the word has faded since the early nineteenth century.” Of course, the Great Flood is that much further in the past :)

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