Long-lived (person)

Xavier da Silva

Senior Member
Hello everyone,

The Oxford Dictionary defines "long-lived" as ''living or lasting a long time''. I saw other definitions (including here on W.R) and it seems that it can mean both (a) 'old' or (b) 'tending to live a long time, longer than most people' (for example a family whose members tend to live to be 89, 97, 102 years old). My question: If I say "John is long-lived" I think the first thing a native speaker will think is that I mean (euphemistically) "John is old". Can I say "this family is long-lived" or "people in that family are long-lived" implying that "this family often has members who live a long time, longer that most people'', not necessarily that "the family is old"?

Thank you in advance!
 
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  • lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    You would not say John is long-lived. That’s not how it’s used. These are more typical uses (“borrowed” from Oxford examples):

    The tradition proved remarkably long-lived

    … it shakes up long-lived assumptions enough to spark new thinking

    … these predators are naturally long-lived, but have a very slow breeding rate

    It turns out she’s even older than Greatgrandma – the Johnsons are a long-lived family.​
     

    heypresto

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It sounds very unnatural. Why not keep it simple, and say 'John is old', or 'John is an old man'?

    Or, if you want to avoid 'old', just say 'John is 92 (or whatever age he is).
     

    Xavier da Silva

    Senior Member
    Thank you very much.

    I thought that by saying "John is a long-lived person" I would sound more polite than by saying "John is old" or "John is an old man". In Portuguese, we do not usually use, in more polite speech, the direct translation of 'old'.
     

    lingobingo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    It would be most unusual to have occasion to say directly to someone: You’re old. We tend to use euphemisms, such as describing someone as “getting/cracking on a bit”, “getting on in years”, “over the hill” (not so polite), “no longer in the first flush of youth” (nauseatingly patronising), etc.
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Also "getting on in years":
    To be advanced or advancing in age; to be old or aging.
    I might be getting on in years, but I'm no fool when it comes to technology!
    Your grandfather's getting on in years, so you may need to speak a bit more loudly around him.


    getting on in years
     
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