The phrase long in the tooth means that someone or something is old.
Origin Of ‘Long In The Tooth’
The phrase “long in the tooth” is believed to originate from horses, or more specifically, a horse’s teeth. How so? Because the older a horse gets, the longer their teeth become. So it is possible to give an approximation for how old a horse is simply by looking at their teeth.
Now, let’s talk about when this phrase shows up in print. There’s a small snippet in an article printed in the Huron Daily Huronite newspaper from the year 1889 that uses this expression. To give context for the following quote, someone was analyzing a horse because they were interested in buying it, but he had doubts about its age, so he said:
“‘Open his mouth. What did you say his age was? I think he’s a little long in the tooth. Seven years did you say he was? I should call him 10 or 11 years old.'”
Today, this phrase is used to describe the age of people or things.
Here are is an example of the idiom in a sentence:
- The lawnmower I’ve used to cut my lawn every other week has finally broke. It was long in the tooth, so I’m not surprised.
- The average lifespan for a domesticated cat is around 15 years. My cat has lived longer than that, so he’s along in years, but he’s still going strong.