Old Bailey the Central Criminal Court in London, formerly standing in an ancient bailey of the London city wall. The present court was built in 1903–6 on the site of Newgate Prison.
old boy network an informal system of support and friendship through which men are thought to use their positions of influence to help others who went to the same school or university as they did, or who share a similar social background.
Old Church Slavonic the oldest recorded Slavic language, as used by the apostles Cyril and Methodius and surviving in texts from the 9th–12th centuries. It is related particularly to the Southern Slavic languages.
Old Colony an informal name for Massachusetts.
Old Contemptibles the veterans of the British Expeditionary Force sent to France in the First World War (1914), so named because of the German Emperor's alleged exhortation to his soldiers to ‘walk over General French's contemptible little army’.
Old Dominion an informal name for the state of Virginia.
Old English the language of the Anglo-Saxons (up to about 1150), an inflected language with a Germanic vocabulary, very different from modern English.
Old Faithful the name of a geyser in Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming, noted for the regularity of its eruptions.
Old Glory an informal name for the US national flag, otherwise known as the Stars and Stripes. It is attributed to Captain William Driver (1803–86), when saluting a new flag flown on his ship, the Charles Dogget, on leaving Salem, Massachusetts for the South Pacific in 1831.
old guard the original or long-standing members of a group or party, especially ones who are unwilling to accept change or new ideas.
old habits die hard proverbial saying, mid 18th century, meaning that a favourite practice or custom is reluctantly abandoned.
Old Hundredth a hymn tune which first appeared in the Geneva psalter of 1551 and was later set to Psalm 100 in the ‘old’ metrical version of the Geneva Psalter (hymn 166 in ‘Hymns Ancient and Modern’); the psalm itself.
Old Kingdom a period of ancient Egyptian history (c.2575–2134 bc, 4th–8th dynasty).
Old Labour the Labour Party before the introduction of the internal reforms initiated by Neil Kinnock (party leader, 1983–1992) and carried through by John Smith (party leader 1992–1994) and his successor Tony Blair (Prime Minister 1997– ); the term is now used for that section of the Labour Party which argues that the aims and ideals of New Labour represent an abandonment of socialist principles.
Old Lady of Threadneedle Street the nickname of the Bank of England, which stands in this street. The term dates from the late 18th century, as a caption to James Gillray's cartoon of 22 May 1797, ‘Political Ravishment, or The Old Lady of Threadneedle-Street in danger!’
old leaven in Christian tradition, traces of the unregenerate state or prejudices that may be held by religious converts, referred to in 1 Corinthians 5:7.
Old Line State an informal name for Maryland.
old man of the mountains a name applied to the founder of the Assassins, who established a base for the sect at a mountain fortress in the region of what is now northern Iran, and his successors.
old man of the sea in the story of Sinbad the Sailor in the Arabian Nights, the sea-god who forced Sinbad to carry him on his shoulders for many days and nights until he was thwarted by being made so drunk that he toppled off.
Old Man River an informal name for the Mississippi.
old master a great artist of former times, especially of the 13th–17th century in Europe; the term is first recorded in 1696 in the diary of John Evelyn.
old moon the moon in its last quarter, before the new moon.
Old Mother Hubbard a nursery-rhyme character who found her cupboard bare when she went to fetch her dog a bone; the story is given in Sarah Catherine Martin's The Comic Adventures of Old Mother Hubbard (1805), based on a traditional rhyme. The character of Mother Hubbard is well-known in popular mythology since at least the late 16th century. Early nursery-rhyme illustrations often depicted Mother Hubbard in a loose-fitting cloak or dress, and her name was thus applied to this kind of garment. In allusive use, however, reference is likely to be made to the complete lack of resources typified by her empty cupboard, whereby ‘the poor dog had none’.
Old Nick an informal name for the Devil, recorded from the mid 17th century. The name is unexplained, although it was once suggested to refer to the forename of Niccoló Macchiavelli (see Macchiavellian). It has also been suggested that Nick may be a shortened form of Iniquity, another term for the Vice in the early modern English morality play.
Old North State an informal name for North Carolina.
the Old Pretender James Francis Edward Stuart (1688–1766), son of James II, whose birth as a Catholic male heir was a contributory cause to his father's being driven into exile. Referred to initially in anti-Jacobite circles as the pretended Prince of Wales, supposedly introduced into the Queen's bed in a warming pan, he then became known as the Pretender, a usage which Bishop Burnet attributes to James's half-sister Queen Anne. The name Old Pretender developed later to distinguish James from his son, Charles Edward Stuart (1720–80), the Young Pretender.
Old Sarum a hill in southern England north of Salisbury, the site of an ancient Iron Age settlement and hill fort, and later of a Norman castle and town. It fell into decline after the new cathedral and town of Salisbury were established in 1220, and the site was deserted. As a famous rotten borough, it returned two MPs until 1832.
old school tie a necktie with a characteristic pattern worn by the former pupils of a particular school, especially a public school; in transferred used, the behaviour and attitudes usually associated with the wearing of such a tie, especially conservatism and group loyalty.
old sins cast long shadows proverbial saying, early 20th century. The image is developed earlier in Suckling's Aglaura (1638), ‘Our sins, like to our shadows, When our day is in its glory scarce appear: Towards our evening how great and monstrous they are!’ Current usage, however, is likely to refer to the wrong done by one generation affecting its descendants.
old soldiers never die proverbial saying, early 20th century; the lines ‘Old soldiers never die, They simply fade away’ (1920, by the British songwriter J. Foley) may reflect a folk-song from the First World War.
In 1951, in his message to Congress, Douglas MacArthur said, ‘I still remember the refrain of one of the most popular barracks ballads of that day, which proclaimed most proudly that old soldiers never die; they just fade away. I now close my military career and just fade away.’
old Spanish custom an irregular practice in a company aimed at decreasing working hours or increasing financial rewards or perquisites. Recorded from the 1930s, the origin of the term has not been explained.
Old Style the method of calculating dates using the Julian calendar, which in England and Wales was superseded by the use of the Gregorian calendar in 1752.
Old Testament the first part of the Christian Bible, comprising thirty-nine books and corresponding approximately to the Hebrew Bible. Most of the books were written in Hebrew, some in Aramaic, between about 1200 and 100 bc. They comprise the chief texts of the law, history, prophecy, and wisdom literature of the ancient people of Israel.
old wives' tale a widely held traditional belief that is now thought to be unscientific or incorrect. The phrase (and its earlier variant old wives' fable) is recorded from the 16th century, with the earliest example being from Tyndale's translation of the Bible (1526), in 1 Timothy 4:7.
Old World Europe, Asia, and Africa, regarded collectively as the part of the world known before the discovery of the Americas; the term is recorded from the late 16th century, in the poetry of John Donne.
you cannot put an old head on young shoulders proverbial saying, late 16th century, meaning that you cannot expect someone who is young and inexperienced to show the wisdom and maturity of an older person.
See also the old Adam, Old Bill, the good old cause, a chip off the old block, dirty old man, old as the hills at hill, a man is as old as he feels, never too old to learn, you can't put new wine in old bottles, you can't teach an old dog new tricks, young men may die, but old men must die.
old / ōld/ • adj. (old·er , old·est ) See also elder1 , eldest. 1. having lived for a long time; no longer young: the old man lay propped up on cushions. ∎ made or built long ago: the old quarter of the town. ∎ possessed or used for a long time: he gave his old clothes away. ∎ having the characteristics or showing the signs of age: marble now so old that it has turned gray and chipped. 2. belonging only or chiefly to the past; former or previous: valuation under the old rating system was inexact. ∎ used to refer to the first of two or more similar things: I was going to try to get my old job back. ∎ dating from far back; long-established or known: we greet each other like old friends I get sick of the same old routine. ∎ (of a form of a language) as used in former or earliest times. 3. [in comb.] of a specified age: he was fourteen years old a seven-month-old baby. ∎ [as n.] [in comb.] a person or animal of the age specified: a nineteen-year-old. 4. inf. used to express affection, familiarity, or contempt: it gets the old adrenaline going “Good old Mom,” she said. PHRASES: any old any item of a specified type (used to show that no particular or special individual is in question): any old room would have done. any old way in no particular order: they've dropped things just any old way. as old as the hills of very long standing or very great age (often used in exaggerated statements). for old times' sake see sake1 . of old 1. in or belonging to the past: he was more reticent than of old. 2. starting long ago; for a long time: they knew him of old. the old days a period in the past, often seen as significantly different from the present, esp. noticeably better or worse: it was easier in the old days we are less confident than in the good old days the bad old days of incoherence and irresponsibility. old enough to be someone's father (or mother) inf. of a much greater age than someone (esp. used to suggest that a romantic or sexual relationship between the people concerned is inappropriate).DERIVATIVES: old·ish adj. old·ness n.
Hence olden (-EN2) ancient. XV.