Thinking West: Long in the Tooth (Idiom)

Idiom: noun. 1. a group of words established by usage as having a meaning not deducible from those of the individual words (e.g., raining cats and dogs, see the light ). 2. a characteristic mode of expression in music or art.

The idiom “long in the tooth” might be the weirdest way to say that someone is old. There is a particular elegance to saying that someone is “long in the tooth” versus simply saying someone is “old.” The idiom comes from raising horses. Older horses often have longer teeth. Thus, a horse that is “long in the tooth” tends to be an older horse.

Examples of use (Free Dictionary):

That actor is getting a little long in the tooth to play the romantic lead.

I may be long in the tooth, but I’m not stupid.

Published by

El Portal

Eastern New Mexico University’s literary magazine, El Portal, offers a venue for the work of writers, artists and photographers. ENMU students, national, and international writers are welcome to submit their original, previously unpublished short stories, plays, poetry and photography. No entry fees are charged. Cash prizes are awarded to first-, second- and third-place winners in each category (only ENMU students qualify). El Portal is published each semester at Eastern thanks to Dr. Jack Williamson, a world-renowned science fiction writer and professor emeritus at ENMU who underwrote the publication. El Portal has been published since 1939.