Is there a word that means "outdated name"? For example:

  • Record, although very little music is on vinyl
  • Film, although most movies are digital
  • Horsepower, although no one uses horses as a metric anymore
  • Phone, although it's mostly used to access the web

and so on.

  • 1
    How about 'old fashioned'? +1
    – user19148
    Jun 25, 2012 at 18:34
  • 6
    Also, "sail" across the sea and "dial" a number.
    – Gnubie
    Jun 25, 2012 at 18:37
  • 5
    Is the term "horsepower" really outdated if it's a standard measurement unit? It doesn't fall into the same category of archaic measurement unit that "fortnight" would.
    – oosterwal
    Jun 25, 2012 at 22:04
  • 10
    @Gnubie A few years back some radio talk show host noted that "dial" doesn't really make sense as we no longer actually dial phones, and so he announced a contest for people to send in new words or phrases. A week later he announced the winning entry: "digitally initiate audio link". Of course that's a long and cumbersome phrase, but the sumibtter suggested that for everyday use people could use the acronym: DIAL.
    – Jay
    Jun 26, 2012 at 13:41
  • 1
    @oosterwal The poster isn't saying that these words are no longer used, but rather that they are "outdated" in the sense that their literal meaning or roots are no longer applicable. As I think about this now I'd quibble. "Film": yes, as movies become digital, this is anachronistic. But there's no such issue with his other examples. "Phone" is short for "telephone" which comes from the Greek for "far sound". That word implies nothing about whether the sound is transmitted digitally over the Internet or by analog signals over traditional phone wires. "Horsepower" measures power ...
    – Jay
    Jun 26, 2012 at 13:47

8 Answers 8


These terms are holdovers from a previous era.

  • 10
    Interesting suggestion. I'd go so far as to say that these are linguistic holdovers, in that it's not so much the technology or the medium that survived, but the words that persisted. (One of my favorites is glove compartment. Every now and then, I've heard people refer to the refrigerator as an icebox, too. Funny how they still call those things you get at a hotel a key. Okay, I'll get off my soapbox now...)
    – J.R.
    Jun 25, 2012 at 20:22
  • 2
    This is a better choice than anachronism (see also comments at @JLG's answer).
    – John Y
    Jun 25, 2012 at 23:07

You could say that it's an anachronism.

  • 6
    An anachronism is something out of its own time, e.g. a television in Victorian London, or people using muskets in a space battle.
    – Ben
    Jun 25, 2012 at 23:31
  • 3
    -1 As @Ben notes, an anachronism is something in the wrong time period (like everything in the Flinstones) which is not what the OP is describing.
    – Dave
    Jun 26, 2012 at 7:24
  • 1
    @Ben, Dave. But a full-rigged ship today would definitely be a tangible anachronism: I don't think OPs context is too much of a stretch. Jun 26, 2012 at 11:47

Such expressions are perhaps edging towards fossilised metaphor.

  • Is that the same as a 'dead metaphor' (a non-literal usage which is not recognized as a metaphor at all)
    – Mitch
    Jun 25, 2012 at 19:06
  • @Mitch: I believe so. Jun 25, 2012 at 19:41
  • But his examples aren't metaphors. They may be fossilized something-else.
    – Jay
    Jun 25, 2012 at 19:41
  • @Jay: I did say 'edging towards'. Jun 25, 2012 at 19:43
  • I can't find any instances of 'fossilised metaphor' (British spelling) and rare use of 'fossilized metaphor' and 'fossil metaphor' via ngrams
    – Mitch
    Jun 25, 2012 at 20:05

Archaism is defined as: An archaic word, phrase, idiom, or other expression.

And archaic itself has a linguistics-related definition (see #3 below)

archaic [ɑːˈkeɪɪk] adj 1. belonging to or characteristic of a much earlier period; ancient 2. out of date; antiquated an archaic prison system 3. (Linguistics) (of idiom, vocabulary, etc.) characteristic of an earlier period of a language and not in ordinary use

  • 2
    Archaic words are those words which are no longer in everyday use but sometimes used to impart an old-fashioned flavor.
    – user20934
    Jun 25, 2012 at 19:13
  • @rudra, You could argue that the words in the OP's question belong to an earlier period and are out of date (using my definition).
    – JLG
    Jun 25, 2012 at 19:21
  • OP is looking for a term for words in current use; the definition cited in this answer clearly identifies "archaic" as a term for words not in current use.
    – MetaEd
    Jun 25, 2012 at 19:24
  • 1
    +1 I think this word can be used in some colloquial context to emphatize the old-fashiond usage of some terms.
    – user19148
    Jun 25, 2012 at 19:37
  • I don't think anachronism is quite right, either, though, based on its definition. I personally voted for holdover.
    – JLG
    Jun 25, 2012 at 19:57

I think the best possible word for this is anachronym.

  • Did you just make that word up or are you refering to anacronym? Jun 26, 2012 at 3:17
  • 1
    Right: an anacronym is an acronym that most people use as a word, without knowing the original words whose initials make it up, like "laser" or "radar".
    – Dave Land
    Jun 26, 2012 at 6:17
  • Made up the same word. Really like it. Will probably use it. Jun 26, 2012 at 23:41


is probably a good fit (antiquated terms/terminology):

an·ti·quat·ed/ˈantiˌkwātid/Adjective: Old-fashioned or outdated.
Synonyms: obsolete - out-of-date - old-fashioned - outdated





Deprecated? Although it sounds like you want a noun.

  • Do you mean depreciated - or do you really disaprove of the terms? :)
    – Wolf5370
    Jun 26, 2012 at 19:03
  • @Wolf5370 — Deprecated is a computer programming term used for e.g. some function in a language that can still be used but is discouraged because something better has been provided. Generally there is a threat that the deprecated function will be withdrawn at some later stage. See, e.g. this Stack Overflow post — It's not a very good answer in my opinion, but that's another matter.
    – David
    Jun 22, 2017 at 20:39

They're perhaps "stabilized" or "commemorative" metaphors more than "fossilized" ones in that nothing better has come along.

Their common appeal is that they have a sense of immediacy and tactile quality to them: the hand on the phone set to dial, the glove in the compartment, the ship gliding on the sea - even film (over video) has a sensuous quality - its thinness, the image of a film of oil floating on water comes to mind.

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