Difference Between Elder and Older

Main Difference – Elder vs Older

The two comparatives elder and older are both derived from the noun old. In fact, elder and eldest are considered to be variants of older and oldest. However, there is a difference between elder and older based on their usage. The main difference between elder and older is that elder is usually used to talk about people whereas older can be used to talk about people, animals, and objects. In addition, older is the most commonly used adjective out of the two.

This article looks at, 

1. What Does Elder Mean – Grammar, Meaning and Usage

2. What Does Older Mean – Grammar, Meaning and Usage

3. Difference Between Elder and Older – Comparison of Usage and GrammarDifference Between Elder and Older - Elder vs Older Comparison Summary

What Does Elder Mean

The adjective elder has the same meaning as older. However, this adjective is mainly used to describe people. This adjective is mainly used to talk about relationships within a family.

He is my elder brother.

He was the elder of his two sons.

They respected her like an elder sister.

She is my grandmother’s elder daughter.

Elder can also be used as a noun. As a noun, it refers to older people. Elder can also refer to a senior member or leader in a group.

You must respect your elders.

The village elders decided that they should be banished.

The term elder also connotes a sense of respect. This sense of respect cannot be noticed in its variant older.

Main Difference - Elder vs Older

She is the baby’s elder sister.

What Does Older Mean

Older also refers to the seniority in age. In other words, we use the adjective older to refer to a person who has lived a long time. Unlike elder, older can be used for both people and non-living things. Observe the usage of this adjective in the following sentences.

The older students started to bully the new student.

My older sister told me to get ready.

They wanted to buy an older, colonial style house.

She was always attracted to older men.

Older people tend to take politics seriously.

He preferred this older apartment.

This adjective can also be used to make an active comparison between two things. For example,

This building is older than that one.

John is older than Greg.

But, elder cannot be used in this sense. It is considered to be inaccurate to say John is elder than Greg.

If you are not sure about the word you should use, keep in mind that older is always safe since it is the most commonly used adjective of the two.

Difference Between Elder and Older

This pocket watch is older than any of her other possessions.

Difference Between Elder and Older

Living vs Nonliving

Elder is used only for people.

Older can be used for people, animals, and objects.

Parts of Speech

Elder is an adjective and a noun.

Older is an adjective.


Elder cannot be used to make comparisons.

Older can be used to make comparisons.

Common Usage

Elder is not as common as older in usage.

Older is more commonly used than elder.

Superlative Form

Elder becomes eldest in the superlative form.

Older becomes oldest in the superlative form.

Family Relations

Elder is often used to describe relationships within the family.

Older is not specifically used to refer to familial relationships.

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About the Author: Hasa

Hasa has a BA degree in English, French and Translation studies. She is currently reading for a Masters degree in English. Her areas of interests include literature, language, linguistics and also food.

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