English Idiom – Long in the tooth.

Meaning – Old or getting old. This idiom suggests that the person or thing has reached an advanced age or is showing visible signs of getting older.

Long in the tooth is primarily used describe people, however it can also be used to describe objects, animals or even ideas. When applied to people, it typically refers to their age or the signs of aging they exhibit. It can be used affectionately or light-heartedly to acknowledge someone’s longevity or to gently highlight the effects of aging. When used for other things, it generally implies that they have been around for a considerable amount of time and may be showing signs of wear, obsolescence, or outdatedness.

The origin of this idiom can be traced back to the practice of estimating a horse’s age by examining its teeth. As horses age, their teeth gradually become longer due to continued growth and wear. Experienced horse traders and buyers would inspect a horse’s teeth to determine its age and overall health. The longer the teeth, the older the horse was considered to be. This practice led to the development of the phrase “long in the tooth” as a metaphorical way to describe aging or being past one’s prime.

The idiom long in the tooth is not generally considered offensive. It is a common and widely used phrase to describe someone or something that is old or aging. The idiom itself does not carry any negative connotations or offensive implications. However, as with any idiom or expression, the context and tone in which it is used can influence how it is perceived by others. It is always important to be mindful of the context and the feelings of the person or people you are communicating with.

Idioms Related To Age Or Getting Older:

  • Advanced in years: Refers to someone who is in their later stages of life or has reached an older age.
  • Aged like fine wine: Describes someone or something that has improved or become more valuable with age.
  • Elderly statesman: Refers to a respected and influential older person, typically in a position of power or authority.
  • Getting on in years: Means growing older or progressing in age.
  • Golden years: Describes the period of life after retirement or in older age, often associated with leisure and relaxation.
  • Over the hill: Suggests that someone has passed their prime or is no longer young and vibrant.
  • Past one’s prime: Describes someone who is no longer at the peak of their abilities or physical condition due to age.
  • Silver-haired: Describes someone with grey or silver-coloured hair, often associated with maturity or older age.
  • Wise old owl: Refers to a person who is old but wise, often associated with wisdom and experience.


When could you use this idiom?

  • If you are referring to a person’s age or signs of getting older.
  • When discussing to technology or equipment that is old or showing signs of wear.
  • When assessing someone’s eligibility or appropriateness for a role or activity.
  • You are acknowledging that your sporting abilities may have declined with age!


  • “Our pet dog, Rex, is getting long in the tooth, but he’s still full of energy and love.”

In The News:

I have a 27″ iMac (2013) that’s getting long in the tooth, what are my replacement choices

What is an idiom?

An idiom is a word or phrase that is not taken literally.  An idiom is an expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its individual words, but has a separate meaning of its own.

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