Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin.
October 19th, 2015
Episode 354 of 793 episodes
Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day for October 19, 2015 is: oldster \OHLD-ster\ noun : an old or elderly person Examples: More and more oldsters are embracing the Internet and connecting and interacting using social media. "I once saw an actress in a period piece wake a snoozing oldster in the front row by tapping his bald head smartly with her fan." Michael Feingold, Theater Mania, 4 Sept. 2015 Did you know? Youngster has been used since the 16th century as a word for a young person with a lot of spunk. It has also long been used by maritime people as a word for a midshipman who has served less than four years. This use is connected with the Dutch word younker, which, like youngster, refers to a young person as well as a young seaman. Oldster came about as a word used to differentiate the inexperienced midshipmen, or youngsters, from the experienced ones. To be exact, in maritime contexts, an oldster is a midshipman of four years' standing. Charles Dickens gets credit for the earliest known use of oldster in the general sense of "an old person." In his 1848 novel Dombey & Son he wrote, "Mr Dombey said of Florence that her eyes would play the Devil with the youngsters before long'and the oldsters too, Sir, if you come to that,' added the Major."