older vs elder

Discussion in 'English Only' started by hcjohnny, Jul 11, 2009.

  1. hcjohnny Senior Member

    After reading some threads about the word "elder", I can't still truly understand the difference between them.
    Could anyone help?
    thank you.
  2. envie de voyager Senior Member

    Niagara Falls, Canada
    Saying "older" gives the impression that you are talking only about age. "Elder" gives the impression that you are talking about age and the wisdom that comes with age.
  3. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Elder (adjective) used to be exactly equivalent to the more modern older, but is now rather limited in use.

    There is a helpful usage note in dictionary.com's listing from the American Heritage Dictioinary:
  4. entangledbank

    entangledbank Senior Member

    English - South-East England
    Traditionally, the word 'elder' was used mainly for brothers and sisters. You said your elder sister, not your older sister. Nowadays most people probably say 'older' here, so the distinction no longer applies.

    Today it's mainly used in two or three fixed expressions. Your elders are wise, old people you should listen to and respect. An elder statesman is a senior, respected politician.
  5. yalda80 New Member

    so i am still wondering whether it is ok to say "people elder than 25"?
    as far as i know, elder goes with to rather than "than", and is followed by a noun.
    this is a bit urgent. could someone clarify it please?
  6. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 75)
    UK English
    You must say "older than".
    I don't know what you mean by "elder goes with to rather rather than than".
  7. yalda80 New Member

    Thanks. that is, they say "he is elder to me" when talking about someones being their senior as for age or the wisdom that comes with knowledge (based on the definition of elder).
  8. e2efour Senior Member

    England (aged 75)
    UK English
    "He is elder to me" sounds very old-fashioned in BE. It seems to be used in religious texts and in India.
    We do sometimes say "he is my senior" or "he is senior to me" instead of "he is older than me", which is simply a matter of age and has nothing to do with wisdom or seniority in tthe sense of "an elder" (meaning, for example, a village elder).
  9. TommyGun Senior Member

    Hi all,

    If I said "She is my elder sister", would it imply that she would be my only sister, or I could have got more than one sisters, for example another younger sister or even another elder sister?

    Is the above the same for "older", for the sentence "She is my older sister"?
    Last edited: Apr 26, 2013

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