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ARCHAISM. In RHETORIC, literary criticism, and PHILOLOGY, a style that reflects the usage of an earlier period (literary archaism) and an out-of-date or old-fashioned word or phrase (a lexical archaism). Literary archaism occurs when a style is modelled on older works, so as to revive earlier practices or achieve a desired effect. Lexical archaisms are a common feature of such a style and of such registers as religion and law. Archaism is often a consequence of purism and may rest on the belief that language and life in days of yore were plainer, more democratic, and more natural. Such archaisms as ere before, prithee I pray you, are often used for effect, especially in the dialogue of historical novels: ‘Dear father, prithee add thyself to that venerable company ere the soup cools’ ( Margaret in Charles Reade's The Cloister and the Hearth, 1861).


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ar·cha·ism / ˈärkēˌizəm; ˈärkā-/ • n. a thing that is very old or old-fashioned. ∎  an archaic word or style of language or art. ∎  the use or conscious imitation of very old or old-fashioned styles or features in language or art. DERIVATIVES: ar·cha·is·tic / ˌärkēˈistik; ˌärkā-/ adj.