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Grammar Nazis... "Eldest" or "Oldest"?

When referring to your child which is right?


My eldest/oldest child is a wonderful student.



Asked by Anonymous at 6:55 PM on May. 2, 2011 in Just for Fun

This question is closed.
Answers (7)
  • Both, but eldest refers to people only.

    Answer by salexander at 10:58 AM on May. 3, 2011

  • 'Eldest' can be used ONLY of people, but 'oldest' can be used for anything, i.e. people, animals, things, etc.
    Eldest" may be used to emphasize rank or seniority while 'oldest' does not do this, and does not need to emphasize age. 'Eldest' is also used in comparing a group:
    "my eldest son" or "the eldest of my three sons")
    However, "oldest" can be used in a more absolute sense ("the oldest man alive").
    'Older' and 'oldest' are used of people or things, but 'elder' and 'eldest' are used only of people, and only for members of the same family.
    "Dave is older than my cousin."
    "John is the oldest man in the organization."
    "Sam is Sally's elder brother."
    "I have three sons; Paul is the eldest."

    There is no real semantic difference between the two, but by common convention, "eldest" is used strictly with respect to people, while "oldest" can be used in reference to any object including people.


    Answer by Pamarita at 7:11 PM on May. 2, 2011

  • Eldest and oldest mean the same thing. The difference is that oldest can be applied to objects while eldest refers only to people. Either word would work in your example.

    Answer by xtwistedxlovex at 7:09 PM on May. 2, 2011

  • Oldest although I'm not sure why.

    Answer by meooma at 6:57 PM on May. 2, 2011

  • you can use both

    Answer by samurai_chica at 7:12 PM on May. 2, 2011

  • either works

    Answer by xxhazeldovexx at 7:18 PM on May. 2, 2011

  • I agree with pamarita.

    Eldest speaks of the age of an individual, so you could say "My eldest child," but oldest can go for people/timelines/animals/objects/ "oldest" would be correct for this, too. They're not always interchangeable though. For example, you could say "My eldest child," but not "My eldest book," because it wouldn't make sense.

    Answer by Mom-2-3-Girlz at 7:49 PM on May. 2, 2011