A frequently used vocative element, meant to indicate affectionate familiarity in most cases, and usually addressed to a man.
   ‘Old boy’ has in recent times been one of the most popular combinations, followed by ‘old man’ and ‘old chap’. Variants include: old bean, old chum, old cock, old fellow, old + first name, old friend, old fruit, old lad, old scout, old son, old thing.
   Individual novelists may extend the range. Stanley Kauffmann, for example, in The Philanderer, has ‘old foop’, ‘old pineapple’, ‘old sweet’, ‘old walrus’, all used affectionately. Love in Quiet Places, by Bernard Thompson, has ‘old ‘ippo’ used by a man to his sleeping partner, a woman who is on the large side if not of hippopotamus proportions.
   ‘Old girl’ and ‘old woman’ occur fairly regularly; Sinclair Lewis uses ‘old socks’ in Martin Arrowsmith; O.Henry has ‘old sport’ in Sisters of the Colden Circle, and so it continues. To all such expressions may be added the ‘you old...’ type of vocative, which is normally admiring, even though in form it may appear to be insulting.
   ‘You old bastard’ is frequently a covert endearment, and further examples met with include: you old basket; you old dark horse, you; you old loon; you old python; you old rascal; you old slob; you old so-and-so.
   ‘Old’ is often combined with ‘poor’ to express sympathy, the resultant expressions being of the ‘poor old chap’, ‘poor old’ + first name type, or “you poor old bastard’, ‘you poor old thing’ type. In dialectal usage ‘old’ is used with ‘my’, as in ‘my old duck’, ‘my old bird’, ‘my old cock’, ‘my old sweat’. Dialectal pronunciation of such friendly, working-class expressions is often indicated by variant spellings. ‘My’ becomes ‘me’, perhaps, or ‘old’ is ‘owd’.
   Occasionally ‘old’ is used in its aged sense, and can then be insulting, especially in an expression like ‘you stupid old man’. Otherwise it indicates that a person is old in the sense of being thoroughly familiar to the speaker, accepted by him as part of the established order.
   It is used almost as a synonym of ‘dear’, especially when addressed to someone who is patently very young. Thus, in The House of the Seven Cables, by Nathaniel Hawthorne, a man says to a very young boy: ‘What’s the trouble, old gentleman?’ Seven Little Australians, by Ethel Turner, has a stepmother saying to her young daughter: ‘Dear little Judy! Be brave, little old woman!’

A dictionary of epithets and terms of address . . 2015.

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  • old — W1S1 [əuld US ould] adj comparative older superlative oldest ▬▬▬▬▬▬▬ 1¦(not new)¦ 2¦(not young)¦ 3¦(age)¦ 4¦(that you used to have)¦ 5¦(familiar)¦ 6¦(very well known)¦ 7 the old days 8 …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Old — Old, a. [Compar. {Older}; superl. {Oldest}.] [OE. old, ald, AS. ald, eald; akin to D. oud, OS. ald, OFries. ald, old, G. alt, Goth. alpeis, and also to Goth. alan to grow up, Icel. ala to bear, produce, bring up, L. alere to nourish. Cf. {Adult} …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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  • old — [ōld] adj. older or elder, oldest or eldest [ME < OE (Anglian) ald, WS eald, akin to Ger alt < IE base * al , to grow > L altus, old, alere, to nourish: basic sense “grown”] 1. having lived or been in existence for a long time; aged 2.… …   English World dictionary

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  • old — ► ADJECTIVE (older, oldest) 1) having lived for a long time; no longer young. 2) made or built long ago. 3) possessed or used for a long time. 4) dating from far back; long established or known. 5) former; previous. 6) …   English terms dictionary

  • old — 1 *aged, elderly, superannuated Analogous words: *weak, feeble, infirm, decrepit Antonyms: young 2 Old, ancient, venerable, antique, antiquated, antediluvian, archaic, obsolete all denote having come into existence or use in the more or less… …   New Dictionary of Synonyms

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