eld·er 1 (ĕl′dər)
1. Greater than another in age or seniority.
2. Archaic Superior to another or others, as in rank.
1. An older person.
2. An older, influential member of a family, tribe, or community.
3. One of the governing officers of a church, often having pastoral or teaching functions.
4. Mormon Church A member of the higher order of priesthood.
In comparisons between two persons, the adjective elder
is simply a more formal term for "older" and has no implication of advanced age: My elder sibling is fourteen; my younger is nine.
In other contexts it does denote relatively old age, but with the added component of respect for a person's position or achievement: an elder statesman; an elder member of the court.
If the simple fact of advanced or relatively advanced age is the point, older
are usually more appropriate than elder: a survey of older Americans; an elderly waiter.
· As with the adjective, the noun elder
can be used comparatively without implying old age: He is my elder by three years.
It can also refer to an office in certain churches or, more broadly, to a position of authority or respect conferred by age and experience: an elder in the Presbyterian Church; a tribal elder.
The use of elder
in the sense of "an elderly person" is uncommon in contemporary English, though it is widely used as an attributive in such phrases as elder care
) and elder services.
See Usage Note at old
el·der 2 (ĕl′dər)
[Middle English eldre, from Old English ellærn.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
born earlier; senior. Compare older
2. (Card Games) (in piquet and similar card games) denoting or relating to the nondealer (the elder hand), who has certain advantages in the play
a. prior in rank, position, or office
b. of a previous time; former
4. an older person; one's senior
5. (Anthropology & Ethnology) anthropol a senior member of a tribe who has influence or authority
6. (Protestantism) (in certain Protestant Churches) a lay office having teaching, pastoral, or administrative functions
(Protestantism) another word for presbyter
[Old English eldra, comparative of eald old; related to Old Norse ellri, Old High German altiro, Gothic althiza]
Usage: The word elder is being increasingly used, as a more respectful way of referring to older people: elder care, elder abuse
1. (Plants) Also called: elderberry any of various caprifoliaceous shrubs or small trees of the genus Sambucus, having clusters of small white flowers and red, purple, or black berry-like fruits
2. (Plants) any of various unrelated plants, such as box elder and marsh elder
[Old English ellern; related to Old Norse elrir, Old High German erlīn, Old Slavonic jelǐcha, Latin alnus]
(Biography) Sir Mark Philip. born 1947, British conductor; musical director of the English National Opera (1979–93) and of the Hallé Orchestra from 2000
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014
eld•er1 (ˈɛl dər)
adj. a compar. of old with eldest as superl.
1. of greater age; older.
2. of higher rank; senior.
3. of former times; earlier. n.
4. an older person: a boy who respects his elders.
5. an aged person.
6. an older, influential member of a tribe or community, often a chief or ruler.
7. a presbyter.
8. (in certain Protestant churches) a lay member who is a governing officer, often assisting the pastor in services.
[before 900; Middle English; Old English eldra,
comp. of eald old
el•der2 (ˈɛl dər)
any shrub or tree of the genus Sambucus, of the honeysuckle family, having divided leaves and clusters of small red, black, or yellow berries.
[before 900; Middle English eldre, elrene, Old English ellærn]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
elder eldest older oldest
The elder of two people is the one who was born first.
Posy was the elder of the two.
If you have a sister or brother who was born before you, you can refer to them as your elder sister or brother.
He had none of his elder brother's charm.
The eldest of a group of people, especially the brothers and sisters in a family, is the one who was born first.
Gladys was the eldest of four children.
Her eldest son was killed in the First War.
3. 'older' and 'oldest'
Elder and eldest are slightly formal, and many people do not use them at all. Instead of 'elder' and 'eldest' you can use older and oldest.
He's my older brother.
Six of their children were there, including the oldest, Luke.
You can use older and oldest in some ways in which you cannot use 'elder'. For example, you can use older after be, get, or grow, and in front of than.
Try it when you are a little older.
We're all getting older.
As he grew older, his fascination with bees developed into an obsession.
Harriet was ten years older than I was.
You cannot use 'elder' in any of these ways.
You can also use older and oldest to talk about things.
On older houses there may be guarantees for treatment against woodworm.
It is the oldest of London squares.
It claims to be the oldest insurance company in the world.
You cannot use 'elder' or 'eldest' to talk about things.
Collins COBUILD English Usage © HarperCollins Publishers 1992, 2004, 2011, 2012