Is there a one-word, more formal adjective for the expression "as old as the hills" ?

The idea is that there is something very old but a little forgotten today (and usually one uses this expression when speaking to someone who doesn't know about the thing).

Example sentences : "This soup is great, you really need to tell us the recipe!" "It's nothing original you know. The recipe is (missing adjective here). The Romans already knew about it."

"There's civil war again in region X, I am a little surprised." "You know, the enmity between ethnic groups Y and Z there is (missing adjective here). We have historical records from ten centuries ago"

  • 1
    Could the downvoter please clarify his or her motive Dec 6 '15 at 6:31
  • 3
    Won't happen. You've been driveby downvoted. I'll do my bit to correct, though.
    – deadrat
    Dec 6 '15 at 6:43
  • 4
    One possible reason (I am not the downvoter) is you didn't include any context. The following is the rule of this community. Questions on choosing an ideal word or phrase must include information on how it will be used in order to be answered. I would advise you to visit our help center. Please write an example sentence that shows how you would use the word.
    – user140086
    Dec 6 '15 at 6:57
  • The question looks far better and clearer. +1 :)
    – user140086
    Dec 6 '15 at 7:42
  • Hyphenate it! An as-old-as-the-hills book.
    – Veo
    Dec 6 '15 at 14:01

10 Answers 10


A simple one that seems to closely fit your sample sentences is age-old. Admittedly it sounds perhaps a little more natural to say is an age-old one, but is age-old works for me. It doesn't have the negative connotations of some of the "old" words, yet implies that the subject has been around for a long long time. timeworn is in a similar bracket.


Antediluvian literally means "from before the flood."

The flood referred to is The flood which covered the Earth, Noah's Flood, Utnapishtim's flood in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Not very appropriate for a recipe, or gathering.

: [from] before the flood described in the Bible. 2. a : made ... a long time ago "an antediluvian automobile" b : extremely primitive Merriam Webster

Ancient Recipes in age sequence, resourced from the family.

Traditional since 1950 Mother's Marmalade 1945. Grandmothers 'Orange Wine.' 1900. Family mince pies 1890 superseded Historic Chutney from 1780 adopted by Uncle John.

Sadly we don't have a clan haggis, or a tribal cava cava.

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    Why is this off topic now? It still fits for me.
    – Mitch
    Dec 6 '15 at 14:34
  • Is cava cava cava ?
    – Fattie
    Dec 7 '15 at 4:29
  • @JoeBlow As I understood it Cava is a root vegetable eaten in Oceanic islands, which requires very careful preparation to remove alkaloids. And Cava cava is a tribal drink needing even more careful preparation. I think the last time I read about it Prince Charles was sharing a cup with Solomon Islanders; but since then it seems to have changed its name to Kava and pops up in British Health Food shops in dropper bottles.
    – Hugh
    Dec 7 '15 at 14:32
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    Hi Hugh .. fascinating! Funnily enough cava is I guess what "Champagne" is called in italy ...
    – Fattie
    Dec 7 '15 at 16:21

Some obvious words are ancient, primaeval, primordial, mediaeval, paleolithic, with phrases available such as from the stone age, since Adam was a boy, from the Dark Ages, among others.




: very old or ancient : from a time so long ago that it cannot be remembered M-W

: originating in the distant past; very old : an immemorial custom OED

[existing] since time immemorial

: since a very long time ago. Literally, since time before recorded history. McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs


prehistoric is a possible adjective that fits your question, but it really depends on context M-W:

: very old or outdated

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    Rather your comment is off topic. Examples of prehistoric recipes and prehistoric enmities
    – macraf
    Dec 6 '15 at 9:39
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    Ewan, how is this and others off topic now? This sounds just right to me still, except maybe it doesn't fit the particular examples. Can you specify why this isn't a good fit anymore?
    – Mitch
    Dec 6 '15 at 14:33
  • @macraf I stand corrected. I didn't know taht "prehistoric" could be used in this sense Dec 6 '15 at 20:42

Antique may fit in your context:

  • Of or belonging to ancient times, especially of, from, or characteristic of ancient Greece or Rome.

or you may use the expression :

lost in the mists of time:

  • if something is lost in the mists of time, everyone has forgotten it because it happened such a long time ago.

    • The true significance of these symbols has become lost in the mists of time.

The Free Dictionary

  • "... mists of time" is the only answer here, it seems, which addresses the "a little forgotten today" aspect ... I think.
    – Fattie
    Dec 7 '15 at 4:32

Consider since the dawn of time.

Example: Donkey's milk is an age-old product used since the dawn of time.


Century-old and centuries-old are some familiar adjectives for your contexts.

Google Books results for:


Just FWIW you can indeed use


in the sense of, "something that was once extremely famous, but surprisingly is now largely unknown."

For example: in 500 years you might hear "WOW. These 'Rolling Stones' are totally amazing. Why haven't we heard of them like 'The Beatles'?" "Ah yes. 'The Stones'. The forgotten idols of the '1900s'!"

Or, "WOW, everyone knows Mona Lisa but check out this sable thing!" "Ah yes, it's a forgotten masterpiece of his..."

Some early TV shows that were the biggest thing in the world at the time are becoming forgotten megahits .. say, Moonlighting.

and so on.

So, you can use that common form in English, the forgotten X, for the exact sense you outline. So, in your actual examples,

The recipe is a forgotten basic. The Romans already used it all the time.

The tension between Y and Z is a forgotten conflict - warring goes back 500 years between them.


I'm surprised that Ancient hasn't been given as an answer already - the standard definition seems to perfectly match the requirements:

ancient (ˈeɪnʃənt) adj 1. dating from very long ago:

  • Ancient is mentioned in Hugh's answer Dec 7 '15 at 12:49

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