"My name is Helena, and I am fourteen past."

I found the line in My New Home by Mrs. Molesworth. I don't know what it means, and why it ends with past.

I know time expressions like “Half past one” and “it's past midnight” but “I am fourteen past” is new to me.

  • 1
    It is the literal translation of our French phrase to say that "I am past fourteen": "J'ai 14 ans passé". It is very common and can be used in an everyday conversation.
    – Cryborg
    Nov 16 at 11:39
  • 5
    This is very much incorrect usage of English, in a modern sense. Using it nowadays would result in total confusion (just like in your question), don’t 😉 Nov 16 at 21:45
  • 2
    Mmmm, I wouldn't understand the expression without some help from the context, and I doubt many people would.  I think ‘fourteen plus’ would be the nearest modern equivalent, though still a little unclear; something like ‘over fourteen’ would be clearer, and ‘fourteen and a bit’ more natural.
    – gidds
    Nov 16 at 23:58

2 Answers 2


Evidently it was a recognised usage in the 19th century. I searched Google Ngrams for thirteen/fourteen/fifteen/sixteen past and found a small number of similar expressions.

From Report on the State of Education in the Country Districts of Scotland (1866)

They all answered with great promptitude as to their ages - 'thirteen past', 'fourteen past', 'fifteen past'.

Presumably the sense is 'I'm past my fourteenth birthday'.

  • 4
    I might read it as "I'm fourteen [years] past [my date of birth]"
    – TylerW
    Nov 15 at 19:46
  • 1
    This sounds like it might be related to a construction like Wednesday week. Nov 15 at 19:57
  • 5
    This answer is excellent, but it’s important to also note this usage is not current in English today — I think most native speakers would find it unnatural, and might not understand it out of context. (I guess it may still be current in some dialects, but not in any I’m familiar with — certainly not in “standard” US or UK usage.)
    – PLL
    Nov 16 at 15:43
  • 3
    @PLL - I would have thought my first sentence made it clear that it is not a recognised usage today! Nov 16 at 16:02
  • 3
    @KateBunting: Implicitly it does, I quite agree, but I felt it worth saying explicitly too, since the people most in need of it are precisely the second-language learners who are more liable to miss a non-obvious implicature.
    – PLL
    Nov 16 at 17:06

I am fourteen past means I am past fourteen.

From the OED:

past preposition & adverb
1.c. Beyond, older than (a specified age). Also (occasionally) placed after its object.
Source: Oxford English Dictionary (login required)

These are the attestations there that show the “occasional” usage:

1676   A light gray Gelding..five years old past.

1720   Lost.., a black Mare,..aged three Years past.

1835   This morning my white mare died, being 8 years old past, for which I gave $100 at five years past.

Here is another among them showing past in the more usual position:

1767   His being able, at past eighty, to perform this expedition on foot.

Now, the curious thing is that those occasionals all have to do with horses, and I imagine Helena is not a horse.

  • This should be the accepted answer, since it gives us the meaning of the phrase on good authority.
    – LarsH
    Nov 17 at 2:30
  • "A light gray Gelding...five years old at it's past birthday" makes sense. It's just shorthand.
    – FreeMan
    Nov 17 at 19:00

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