Almost every language has polite ways to say that someone is old and that someone is getting ones. Are they usual in English? If so, which is the most usual euphemism in English to express these two ideas nowadays? Below are the ones I am familiar with:

to be old

  • He is advanced in age.
  • He is advanced in years.
  • He is of advanced age. (less usual)

to get old

  • Aunt Betty is getting along in years
  • He has got his bus pass (informal UK). – Weather Vane Aug 26 '19 at 20:57
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    Erm..."senior citizen"? – Cascabel Aug 26 '19 at 20:58
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    It all depends on the context, and on the person being described. If you want to say " Despite being [old] he ran the London marathon in record time", that is one thing. But if you want to say "Because he is [old] you cannot expect him to be as quick as he once was" a different euphemism is needed. Bizarrely, in the second case 'older' is often used. (Older than what?). You have to tailor your euphemism to the specific circumstances. BTW the next person who calls me 'old' gets a black eye. I am over 70. – JeremyC Aug 26 '19 at 22:20
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    For a good jaja, see this clip from Mel Brooks the 2000-year-old man "ah...Jesus. Good Jewish boy." – Cascabel Aug 26 '19 at 23:00

One such idiom is along in years:

Definition: Someone who is old, growing old, or elderly.

The idiomatic expression along in years refers to someone who is old or elderly. Native English speakers use it as a euphemism to illustrate that someone is growing older.

When used in this context, the verb getting often precedes the phrase.
Writing Explained

This idiom can be used to describe people or animals.


(theoretically when a person is too old to work. This used to be 60 for the U.K. state pension. Years ago they were called ‘old age pensioners’. That age is increasing towards 68. But many retire earlier; pilots and people in the armed forces, for example. Roman soldiers in the empire served for 25 years. So retirement would have been around 50 or so, and the Latin word for ‘old’ (senex) was for those too old to be soldiers.

The age at which people feel or seem old varies. But I suggest that it begins when we (yes, I am old) when we start to realise there are more and more things we cannot do that we could do before. These may be physical. I used to be able to amuse my kids by fully exhaling and staying on the bottom of the pool and staying there. Now I just float back up: my body is less dense than it was. Then there was when I couldn’t stand on my head any more or do a ‘spider’ though I was good at gymnastics at school.. and though I can still run down stairs and climb ladders and trees, I am much more cautious now, because I am aware that a fall is more likely to do serious damage that would be slower to heel. Age may show up in other ways too: a less efficient short term memory, for example. But I should propose 60 as a sensible age after which old people could be said to be old: perhaps 65.; certainly 70.

  • My question is about expressions used as euphemism for old (people). This answer is completely out of scope. – Alan Evangelista Aug 27 '19 at 5:26
  • @AlanEvangelista But you haven't really described a scope. This is questioning what you judge old to be referring to. It's not even clear why you think old itself isn't polite, making something else a better choice. And, taking one example from this answer, why would pensioner not be a euphemism? – Jason Bassford Aug 27 '19 at 6:00
  • @AlanEvangelista. Yes, you are right. I got so wrapped up in the use that there is no reason for the word ‘old’ to have derogatory connotations, that I forgot to include my actual answer. It must be my age! The reason for euphemism is, of course, ageism, in which it is assumed that old people are less capable of certain things, or are all a bit dotty. There is a very good French euphemism: ‘le troisième age’ (the third age. There is even a ‘université du troisième age). Trouble is, it has no corresponding g adjective. [ continued]. – Tuffy Aug 27 '19 at 6:08
  • @JasonBassford The trouble with euphemisms is that they do not work. They paper over the cracks of prejudice, whether about sexual identity, ethnic identity or age. But in a short time the prejudice shows through, and the euphemism sounds condescending. And they soon become an excuse for the prejudiced to inveigh against ‘political correctness’. So the euphemism becomes not a changer of attitudes but a means to avoid the disapproval of others. Old people are old. – Tuffy Aug 27 '19 at 6:47
  • @JasonBassford Sorry to disagree, but I have (IMHO clearly) defined the scope. The proof is that the other answer provides an alternative expression for "old". Also, IMHO "pensioner" is not related with my question. I think that nobody would say today "That man is a pensioner" with the main purpose of saying that he is old; instead, the age is only a consequence of the main fact. I'm not interested in terms which are not used nowadays. I have added it to the question to make it clear. – Alan Evangelista Aug 27 '19 at 6:55

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