Archaism

An Introduction to Archaism

Archaism (derives from the Greek word ‘archaïkós,’ literally means “old-fashioned,” or “antiquated”), is a rhetorical term which consists when placing particular emphasis on the past. In this instance, the device manifests itself in eulogies of the Classical period, its artOpens in new window, cultureOpens in new window and language, and often attempts to reproduce them.

In RhetoricOpens in new window, archaisms refer to words or languages of time past that are no longer used in contemporary discourses or writings. However, they are occasionally used in literary works to resonate the period in history in which the story is based.

An Example of Literary Piece with Archaism
  • Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
    Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
    Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
    Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;….
    Drowsed with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
    And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
    Steady thy laden head across a brook;….
    Thou watchest the last oozings, hours by hours.
  • — (John Keats, Ode to Autumn)

Archaisms used in the poem are “hath,” “thou,” — an ancient variety of ‘has’ and ‘you’ respectively. Meanwhile the strange word “watchest” is employed as past participle for the word “watch.”

Further Readings:
Grammar Monster: What are Archaisms?Opens in new window
Literary Devices: Definition of ArchaismOpens in new window