Is saying "an obsolete remnant" or "an old remnant" redundant (or tautologous), or can the adjective be necessary to convey what I'm trying to say?

(I imagined "remnant" already carries the connotation of "obsolete" to some extent, but looking at Wiktionary, maybe that is not the case.)

Bonus question: Is there a better noun for "something that's remaining or left behind, yet obsolete"?

  • 2
    You can have carpet remnants, and carpet is not obsolete. – Mitch Jun 12 '12 at 13:17
  • Context whence the question arose: in a software project, a file that had been laying in version control for a year, originally added with some intention in mind, but actually serving no purpose whatsoever. What to call that file? – Jonik Jun 12 '12 at 13:38
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    I would call it a 'relic'("An old, outmoded, or outdated person or thing"), if it were simply too old to use, or maybe a 'white elephant' if it were a project that never really got going ~ "an object, scheme, etc., considered to be without use or value." – Roaring Fish Jun 12 '12 at 13:51
  • @RoaringFish: Yeah, "relic" is good. What lead me to think of "remnant" was the Finnish word jäänne, which actually better translates to "relic" or "remains" now that I looked it up. – Jonik Jun 12 '12 at 16:44
  • @Jonik RE your comment specifically: I'd call that file an "obsolete file". – Jay Jun 12 '12 at 16:56

If we take remnant to mean a small part of something that is left over, obsolete and old need not be redundant. Even if obsolete and old are taken to be part of the connotations of the word, they would serve as intensifiers of the meaning.

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First, let's get the basics clear.

Obsolete: no longer used; out of date

Remnant: a part or quantity that is left after the greater part has been used, removed, or destroyed

Old: old

So, "obsolete" and "old" are not redundant in the phrases you have provided.

As for the bonus question, you could try:

  • Vestige
  • Remainder
  • Leftover
  • Remains

(The choice of the synonym - for the bonus question - would depend entirely upon the context of the statement where it is to be used.)

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  • Thanks! (I sdded some context as a comment to the question.) – Jonik Jun 12 '12 at 13:38
  • @Jonik You could call such a file to be redundant or superfluous. – user20934 Jun 12 '12 at 13:42
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    A "remnant" is not necessarily "old" at all. If, say, you are installing carpet and have a remnant, at the instant it becomes a remnant it is exactly as new as the carpet that was installed. Also, carpet stores routinely sell such remnants at a discount to be used as small rugs and the like, so a remnant is not necessarily useless or obsolete. – Jay Jun 12 '12 at 16:54
  • @Jay Where have I written that a "remnant" is necessarily old? – user20934 Jun 13 '12 at 4:58
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    @rudra You didn't. I was agreeing with you. (Don't be so defensive. :-) – Jay Jun 13 '12 at 16:00

As mentioned in a previous answer, remnant (a remaining portion) does not denote old or obsolete (old, disused).

Regarding part 2 of the question, the previously-suggested terms vestige, remainder, redundant, and superfluous are all very well, but the "proper term" for obsolete bits of software left lying about in a project is cruft, "Redundant, old or improperly written code, especially that which accumulates over time; clutter".

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  • Thanks, "cruft" is useful. In this particular case, however, it wasn't really code — just a single JSP file that was essentially empty (but whose existence still caused a bug) — so, a countable noun would be preferred. "Relic", suggested by others, is close to what I was looking for. – Jonik Jun 12 '12 at 16:55

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