Archaism Examples: What It Is and How To Use It

Do you know what archaisms are? This article will provide you with all of the information you need on archaisms, including the definition, usage, example sentences, and more!

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What is an archaism?

According to Literary Devices, the word archaism refers to a figure of speech in which a used phrase or word is considered very old fashioned and outdated. An archaism can be either a word, a phrase, a group of letters, spelling, or syntax. This comes from the Greek word archaïkós, which means “beginning,” or “ancient” and is also known as archaic diction. You might still see archaisms in legal jargon today. This form of jargon might also be used for humor, irony, and more in a work of literature. You will also see literary archaism in nursery rhymes, English proverbs, and more that use old fashioned words. Archaic language could also be used in a novel set in the past, or in common phrases like vim and vigor. The pronunciation of archaism is  ahr-kee-iz-uh m.

The use of archaic language is present in the masterpieces of Shakespeare, and the use of archaic language or use of writing can also be used to alter sentence structure. Think about why a person might choose to use the old word and what its original meaning implies.

Take a look at these archaisms from Soft Schools:

  •  “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy.” Bible, Luke 2:10
  •  “And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
  •  Hark! The herald angels sing …” Christmas Carol
  •  “To thine own self be true.” Shakespeare’s Hamlet
  •  “Joyful, joyful we adore thee, God of glory, Lord of love.” Christian Hymn
  •  “O, Romeo, Romeo-wherefore art thou Rome? Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet
  •  How great thou art, how great thou art.” Christian Hymn
  •  “Know from whence you came. If you know whence you came, there are absolutely no limitations to where you can go.” James Baldwin
  •  Of my darling–my darling–my life and my bride,” Edgar Allan Poe, “Annabelle Lee”
  •  ‘Twas the night before Christmas . . .” Clement Clarke Moore

What are examples of archaisms?

Take a look at the below examples of archaisms from Literary Devices and Literary Devices.

  1.   “I heard a Lannister always pays his debts.”
    “Oh, every penny….but never a groat more. You’ll get the meal you bargained for, but it won’t be sauced with gratitude, and in the end it will not nourish you.”
    – A Dance With Dragons by George R. R. Martin
  2.  SUSANNA: Aye, sir, he have been searchin’ his books since he left you, sir. But he bid me tell you, that you might look to unnatural things for the cause of it.
    PARRIS, his eyes going wide: No—no. There be no unnatural case here. Tell him I have sent for Reverend Hale of Beverly, and Mr. Hale will surely confirm that. let him look to medicine and put out all thought of unnatural causes here. There be none.
    – The Crucible by Arthur Miller
  3.  I shall be telling this with a sigh
     Somewhere ages and ages hence:
     Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
     I took the one less traveled by,
     And that has made all the difference.
    – “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost
  4.  “And do you like me too? Do I please thee? I will look better later.”
     “Thou art very beautiful now.”
     “Nay,” she said. “But stroke thy hand across my head.”
    – For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  5.  Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
     Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
     “Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee
     Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore;
     Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!”
     Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
    – “The Raven” by Edgar Allen Poe
  6.  “Perhaps he loves you now,
     And now no soil nor cautel doth besmirch
     The virtue of his will
     There; my blessing with thee!
     And these few precepts in thy memory
     Look thou character. Give thy thoughts no tongue …
     I find thee apt;
     And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed
     That rots itself in ease on Lethe wharf,
     Wouldst thou not stir in this …”
    – Hamlet (By William Shakespeare)
  7.  “Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
     Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
     Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
     Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind; …
     Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
     And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
     Steady thy laden head across a brook; …
     Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.”
    – Ode to Autumn (By John Keats)
  8.  “‘Where the hell are you going?’ Agustín asked the grave little man as he came up…
     ‘Thy duty,’ said Agustín mockingly. ‘I besmirch the milk of thy duty.’ Then turning to the woman, ‘Where the un-nameable is this vileness that I am to guard?’
     ‘In the cave,’ Pilar said. ‘In two sacks. And I am tired of thy obscenity.’
     ‘I obscenity in the milk of thy tiredness,’ Agustín said.
     ‘Then go and befoul thyself,’ Pilar said to him without heat.
     ‘Thy mother,’ Agustín replied.”
    – Whom the Bell Tolls (By Earnest Hemingway)
  9.  “It is an ancient Mariner,
     And he stoppeth one of three.
     ‘By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,
     Now wherefore stopp’st thou me?
     He holds him with his skinny hand,
     ‘There was a ship,’ quoth he.
     ‘Hold off! unhand me, grey-beard loon!’
     Eftsoons his hand dropt he
     ‘I fear thy skinny hand! …
     I fear thee and thy glittering eye,
     And thy skinny hand, so brown.’—
     Fear not, fear not, thou Wedding-Guest!
     This body dropt not down …”
    – The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (By S. T. Coleridge)

Overall, archaisms areoutdared language, syntax or structure used in works.


  1. Archaism Examples and Definition | Literary Devices 
  2. Archaism – Definition and Examples of Archaism | Literary Devices 
  3. Archaism Examples | Soft Schools