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Long In the Tooth

older gentlemen removing dentures

Long In the Tooth Definition

  • Old; getting old
  • Too old for something

Long In the Tooth Examples

  • I think granpa is getting a little long in the tooth to play tag with you buddy.
  • I may be a little long in the tooth but I can still play a mean game of flip cup.


I couldn’t care less what anyone’s perception of me is. I’m too long in the tooth to care.

FĂ©lix Dennis

Radar is too long in the tooth for fine detail

Peter Watts

Long In the Tooth Origin

Literary Origin

His cousin was now of more than middle age, and had nobody’s word but her own for the beauty which she said she once possessed. She was lean, and yellow, and long in the tooth; all the red and white in all the toy-shops in London could not make a beauty of her

The History of Henry Esmond, Esq., William Makepeace Thackeray

The earliest example of our idiom as we use it today is found in a novel written by the historic British author and illustrator William Makepeace Thackeray. The History of Henry Esmond Esq. is a historical fiction following the titular Henry Esmond an orphan turned colonel. The story follows Henry’s life growing up with his foster family, attending Cambridge University and eventually fighting in The War of the Spanish Succession under Queen Anne.

Taking place in the late 17th to early 18th centuries, we experience several historic events through the main character’s eyes. Including the Glorious revolution, Hamilton-Mohun Duel and the Hanoverian Succession.

William Makepeace Thackeray is best known for his novel Vanity Fair that follows two young women’s lives during and after the Napoleonic Wars. As well as his novel The Luck of Barry Lyndon that was adapted into a film by Stanley Kubrick.

Spiritual Origin

Many say that our idiom originates from horses. A horse’s teeth grow continuously throughout their life, hence the ‘long tooth’. You can even determine roughly a horses age by examining their mouth, due to the predictable growth as well as wear and tear they experience.