What does the idiom “Long in the Tooth” mean? Idioms are a type of figurative phrase that has been used in speech for many years in order to convey thoughts and feelings. As the use becomes popular, their meaning is implied and learned. “Long in the tooth” is one such idiom that has been used for hundreds of years. Here you will find the meaning of the phrase, the humble beginnings of its popular usage, examples of how to use the phrase properly in conversations/statements and other ways to literally express the same meaning.
Long in the Tooth
Long in the Tooth Meaning
The phrase “long in the tooth” is figurative language that is can be used to describe a person or an object that is getting aging. It can be used in different ways, as a serious description or as a funny, heart-felt description.
Origin of this idiomatic expression
This phrase, believe it or not, originated from horses. As horses age, their teeth get longer and it is possible to tell the horse’s age by how long his/her teeth are. The first time this phrase was seen in print was in a newspaper from 1889 in response to someone trying to sell their 7 year old horse and a comment left declared the horse to be 11 or 12 actually because of how long in the tooth the horse was.
“Long in the Tooth” Examples
Examples in Statements
An advertisement on television.
- “If your washer or dryer is getting a bit long in the tooth, then come on down and shop with us today. We are sure to have something you will like to replace it.”
A quarterback speaking about his retirement.
- “It is just time for me to hang up my jersey and my sneakers. I am getting a bit long in the tooth to play this young man’s game.”
Examples in Conversation
A conversation between two sisters.
- Sister 1: I think dad may be getting a little senile and forgetful.
- Sister 2: Well, he is a bit long in the tooth.
A conversation between a husband and wife.
- Husband: What did you do today?
- Wife: Well, I was going to bake you a nice apple pie for dessert after dinner, but the over won’t heat up. It is a bit long in the tooth. We definitely need to replace it.
More useful examples:
- He’s a bit long in the tooth to be wearing jeans, don’t you think?
- He’s getting a bit long in the tooth to be playing football.
- I am too long in the tooth to take this stressful job.
Other Ways to Say “Long in the Tooth”
As is the case with most idioms, there are more direct ways to convey the same meaning of this phrase. For example you could say it is old, he/she is older, he/she is aging or it is obsolete.
“Long in the Tooth” synonyms list:
- Too old
- Old fashioned
- Out of date
- Over the hill