Long in the Tooth

Unravel the meaning of the idiom 'long in the tooth', its synonyms, practical usage in sentences, and its equine-related origin story.

Long in the Tooth: Meaning and Definitions

  • The phrase “long in the tooth” is used to suggest that someone or something is aging or old.
  • It’s often applied to people, indicating that they are advanced in age or nearing the end of their career or lifespan.
  • The idiom can also be used to describe objects, suggesting that they are outdated or have been in use for a long time.
  • It may also imply that a practice or a trend has become old-fashioned or obsolete.
  • Furthermore, it can denote an animal being older, since this idiom originally pertained to horses.

Long in the Tooth Synonyms

  1. Over the hill
  2. Advanced in years
  3. Past one’s prime

Example Sentences

  • John, being long in the tooth, decided it was time to retire and enjoy his golden years.
  • The software we use at the office is getting a bit long in the tooth and needs to be updated.
  • Many argue that the traditional ways of teaching are long in the tooth and should be modernized.
  • The veteran actor, now long in the tooth, has decided to take less demanding roles.
  • The family car, long in the tooth, finally gave up the ghost and had to be replaced.

The Origins and Etymology of Long in the Tooth

The term “long in the tooth” originates from an old practice of determining a horse’s age by looking at its teeth.

As a horse ages, their gums recede, making the teeth appear longer.

Hence, a horse with ‘long teeth’ is understood to be of an older age.

This idiom was later used to refer to the aging process in humans and other aspects as well.

You can read more about it on Wikipedia.

Meta Description: Unravel the meaning of the idiom ‘long in the tooth’, its synonyms, practical usage in sentences, and its equine-related origin story.

A comprehensive look at a phrase denoting age or obsolescence.

douglas heingartner editor saywhatyo!
Douglas Heingartner

Douglas Heingartner, the editor of SayWhatYo!, is a journalist based in Amsterdam. He has written about science, technology, and more for publications including The New York Times, The Economist, Wired, the BBC, The Washington Post, New Scientist, The Associated Press, IEEE Spectrum, Quartz, The Village Voice, The Los Angeles Times, Frieze, and others. His Google Scholar profile is here, his LinkedIn profile is here, and his Muck Rack profile is here.