I'm looking for a word or a phrase (preferably a noun phrase) that describes

  • something current,
  • which should not be still present, because it is kind of outdated,
  • but is still around us because of historical reasons.

Naturally, what should or should not be present is subjective, and by using this word one actually expresses an opinion on the matter. Please note, that it doesn't have to have negative connotation, e.g. a character might observe that the world should have moved already, but he or she is glad that it didn't. I'm most interested in neutral or negative flavors, but I would appreciate other suggestions as well.

In a sense it is an antonym (or dual) for 'anachronism', because instead of author-inserted out-of-time thing we have author-wishes-to-be-removed current thing.

What word or a phrase would best describe such a thing?

  • 1
    You could say the opposite of anachronism was catachronism if you wanted, but it seems that very few people want.
    – user28567
    Aug 19, 2014 at 23:04

5 Answers 5


In the context of technology, legacy as an adjective fits this definition quite well, i.e., legacy code. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legacy_system).

It generally refers to technology systems that are still in use, but outdated, and generally unpleasant for people to deal with.

Antique or antiquated could be neutral, positive, or negative, depending on context. The negative connotation comes when emphasizing the negative qualities of its age.

Old Guard can refer to a group of people, set of ideas/values, or politics that are seen as being stuck in the past and unwilling to change.

Edit with some more suggestions:

fossil could metaphorically refer to anything old.

dinosaur also conveys old or out-of-date, especially to things that are slow, clunky, or overweight. This is sometimes used with the extended metaphor of the dinosaur, being unwilling to change its ways, is doomed by the coming asteroid.

ossify/ossified literally means "to turn into bone", and it's often used to refer to processes or practices that have become stuck, set in stone. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ossify)

relic might be the word you're looking for. One given definition is "a trace of some past or outmoded practice, custom, or belief" (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/relic)


The word skeuomorph sometimes is used in the manner mentioned in the question. Wikipedia says:

A skeuomorph is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues from structures that were necessary in the original. Examples include pottery embellished with imitation rivets reminiscent of similar pots made of metal and a software calendar that imitates the appearance of binding on a paper desk calendar. ... The term ... has been applied to material objects since 1890[4] and is now also used to describe computer and mobile interfaces. ... Skeuomorphs are deliberately employed to make the new look comfortably old and familiar, or are simply habits too deeply ingrained to wash away.

The word has been in use since the 1890s. It has been used, for example, to characterize mass-market Minoan ceramic cups (ca. 2700 BC to 1450 BC) that used pellets of clay to imitate rivets that appeared on Minoan silver cups.

Edit: Regarding “a similar term that does not refer to material objects or interfaces”, I don't know of such terms that are similar or related to skeuomorph, aside perhaps from some of the terms suggested in YenTheFirst's answer. These include antiquated (“old-fashioned, out of date”) and relic (“That which remains; that which is left after loss or decay; a remaining portion” or “Something old kept for sentimental reasons”). However, relics often are valuable; eg, wiktionary's usage note says

By comparison with synonyms, relic emphasizes age, and to some degree value – a “relic of a lost civilization”

If you want to emphasize the “should not be still present” aspect of features or ideas, consider using zombie (a “living dead” person) figuratively, or refer to the features or ideas as hangers-on. A hanger-on is “One who hangs on, or sticks to, a person, place, or service; a dependent; one who adheres to others’ society longer than he is wanted” (wiktionary).

  • Is there a similar term that does not refer to material objects or interfaces? For example I might want to use it with regard to ideas or concepts like time zones, etc.
    – dtldarek
    Aug 21, 2014 at 15:55

I would suggest the adjective time-honored (AmE) / time-honoured (BrE).

It usually applies to traditions and customs that are outdated but still in use, and honored as a result of a long historical usage.

honored because of age or long usage

An example with the usage of both time-honored and anachronism to have a better idea:

Heraldry, according to various principal theories, arose from the necessity of having distinguishing devices on seals, or on armour in the tournament, or in war. It is true that these first necessities no longer exist, but a time-honored custom does not become an anachronism by merely surviving circumstances which first called it into being.

Heraldry in Scotland - J. H. Stevenson By Bruce Durie


In software development, the word deprecated refers to a software feature that still exists (i.e., is still current) to support older software (i.e., for historical reasons), but it has specifically been identified as being out of date.

Deprecated software may be retained for a limited period of time to support outdated hardware that may still be in use. It may be retained while replacement features (better, in some way, perhaps, but different) are also available, in order to ease the maintenance and transition of existing software to use the newer features.

It appears to be a term that is finding more widespread usage outside of software development. The referenced wikipedia article gives examples of how the term is used in the same fashion in non-software cases.


This might be a bit colloquial, but the term holdover comes to mind.

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