AN'CIENT, adjective Usually pronounced most anomalously, ancient The pronunciation of the first vowel ought to accord with that is antiquity, anger, anchor, etc. [Lt. ante, antiquus.] We usually apply ancient and old to things subject to gradual decay. We say, an old man, an ancient record; but never the old sun, old stars, an old river or mountain.
1. Old; that happened or existed in former times, usually at a great distance of time; as, ancient authors, ancient days. Old, says Johnson, relates to the duration of the thing itself, as an old coat; and ancient to time in general, as an ancient dress. But this distinction is not always observed. We say, in old times, as well as ancient times; old customs, etc. In general, however, ancient is opposed to modern, and old to new, fresh or recent. When we speak of a thing that existed formerly, which as ceased to exist, we commonly use ancient as ancient republics' ancient heroes, and not old republics, old heroes. But when the thing which began or existed in former times, is still in existence, we use either ancient or old; as, ancient statues or paintings, or old statues or paintings; ancient authors, or old authors, meaning books. But in these examples ancient seems the most correct, or best authorized. Some persons apply ancient to men advanced in years still living; but this use is not common in modern practice, though found in scripture.
With the ancient is wisdom. Job.
2. Old; that has been of long duration; as, an ancient forest; an ancient city.
3. Known from ancient times; as the ancient continent, opposed to the new continent.
AN'CIENT, noun Generally used in the plural, ancients. Those who lived in former ages, opposed to moderns.
1. In scripture, very old men. Also, governors, rulers, political and ecclesiastical.
God is called the ancient of days from his eternal existence. Daniel 7:9.
Hooker uses the word for seniors, 'They were his ancients, ' but the use is not authorized.
2. ancient is also used for a flag or streamer, in a ship of war; and for an ensign or the bearer of a flag, as in Shakespeare. Cowel supposed the word, when used for a flag, to be a corruption of end-sheet, a flag at the stern. It is probably the Fr. enseigne.
Ancient demain, in English Law, is a tenure by which all manors belonging to the crown, in the reign of William the Conqueror, were held. The numbers, names etc. of these were all entered in a book called Domes-day Book.