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Old hat

Old hat is a phrase that came into use in the first decade of the twentieth century. We will look at the meaning of the term old hat, where it came from and some examples of its use in sentences.

Old hat means out of date, old-fashioned, something that is worn out due to repeated use and familiarity. The term old hat to mean old-fashioned first appeared in the early 1900s as an allusion to a beat-up felt hat that shows its wear due to its repeated use. Interestingly, old hat had an earlier meaning, popular in the mid- to late 1700s. At that time, old hat referred to a woman’s private anatomy. The term was taken from a bawdy joke. Today, this meaning is utterly forgotten and old hat is only used to mean old-fashioned or worn out through familiarity.

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Examples

A shoot-out in a hall of mirrors is distinctly old hat (think the Bond film The Man With The Golden Gun) but though there isn’t anything truly inventive here, the action sequences have a kind of grace with Keanu as a gun toting Jackson Pollock, spray painting pristine surfaces with the bloody squibs of the extras. (The Norwich Evening News)

Both agree the team is like a family, and even though it’s old hat for the two, they both are looking forward to the competition. (Ruidoso News)

By 1897, scenes of ritual human sacrifice would have been old hat to readers of H. Rider Haggard, and Mrs. Dracula has an air of recycled Keats, by way of Wilkie Collins. (The Chicago Tribune)

The costumes in the stands are just as old hat and whether you can now buy some refreshments that taste of something other than salt is neither here nor there. (The Dominion Post)

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