Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Belonging to the highest rank or class.
  • adj. Serving as the established model or standard: a classic example of colonial architecture.
  • adj. Having lasting significance or worth; enduring.
  • adj. Adhering or conforming to established standards and principles: a classic piece of research.
  • adj. Of a well-known type; typical: a classic mistake.
  • adj. Of or characteristic of the literature, art, and culture of ancient Greece and Rome; classical.
  • adj. Formal, refined, and restrained in style.
  • adj. Simple and harmonious; elegant: the classic cut of a suit; the classic lines of a clipper ship.
  • adj. Having historical or literary associations: classic battlefields of the Civil War.
  • n. An artist, author, or work generally considered to be of the highest rank or excellence, especially one of enduring significance.
  • n. A work recognized as definitive in its field.
  • n. A literary work of ancient Greece or Rome.
  • n. The languages and literature of ancient Greece and Rome. Used with the.
  • n. One that is of the highest rank or class: The car was a classic of automotive design.
  • n. A typical or traditional example.
  • n. Informal A superior or unusual example of its kind: The reason he gave for being late was a classic.
  • n. A traditional event, especially a major sporting event that is held annually: a golf classic.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. exemplary of a particular style
  • adj. exhibiting timeless quality
  • adj. traditional; original
  • n. A perfect and/or early example of a particular style.
  • n. An artistic work of lasting worth
  • n. The author of such a work.
  • n. A major, long-standing sporting event
  • n. One learned in the literature of Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome; a student of classical literature.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Of or relating to the first class or rank, especially in literature or art.
  • adj. Of or pertaining to the ancient Greeks and Romans, esp. to Greek or Roman authors of the highest rank, or of the period when their best literature was produced; of or pertaining to places inhabited by the ancient Greeks and Romans, or rendered famous by their deeds.
  • adj. Conforming to the best authority in literature and art; chaste; pure; refined.
  • n. A work of acknowledged excellence and authority, or its author; -- originally used of Greek and Latin works or authors, but now applied to authors and works of a like character in any language.
  • n. One learned in the literature of Greece and Rome, or a student of classical literature.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Belonging to or associated with the first or highest class, especially in literature; accepted as of the highest rank; serving as a standard, model, or guide.
  • Pertaining to or having the characteristics of ancient Greece or Rome, especially of their literature and art; specifically, relating to places associated with the ancient Greek and Latin writers.
  • Hence Relating to localities associated with great modern authors, or with great historical events: as, classic Stratford; classic Hastings.
  • In accordance with the canons of Greek and Roman art: as, a classic profile.
  • Same as classical, 5.
  • n. An author of the first rank; a writer whose style is pure and correct, and whose works serve as a standard or model; primarily and specifically, a Greek or Roman author of this character, but also a writer of like character in any nation.
  • n. A literary production of the first class or rank; specifically, in the plural, the literature of ancient Greece and Rome.
  • n. One versed in the classics.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. of or relating to the most highly developed stage of an earlier civilisation and its culture
  • adj. of recognized authority or excellence
  • adj. of or pertaining to or characteristic of the ancient Greek and Roman cultures
  • n. an artist who has created classic works
  • n. a creation of the highest excellence

Etymologies

From French classique, from Latin classicus ("relating to the classes of Roman citizenry, especially the highest"), from classis (Wiktionary)

Examples

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Comments

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  • What are your opinions about using the phrase "classy classic" in reference to a wedding dress, for example? Too redundant? Or have the two connotations diverged enough that they are not?

    May 9, 2011

  • Right, or "modern classic".

    October 27, 2010

  • The elapsed time makes sense; consider "instant classic".

    October 27, 2010

  • Surely classic means that it is as beloved of high school curriculum wonks as it is hated by students, that it appears in Hardback Editions and Gift Box Sets around Special Times of Year, and has been made into a movie several times including at least once in black and white and at least once in French (though updated and set in the Paris Metro).

    October 22, 2010

  • OMG. Did you just call Jane Austen trashy? LOL.

    October 22, 2010

  • I agree with milos that the length of time required to elapse before "classic" status can be conferred is relative to the age of the genre in question.

    October 22, 2010

  • There are no strict criteria afaik, but the classics are the books that for whatever reason have endured. They have to be old - in my opinion at least old enough to be out of copyright. Classics also have to be widely acclaimed by professional critics, including current ones. A book doesn't have to have been successful in terms of sales or critical reception at the time it was written - e.g. Moby-Dick - to be a classic. It's the "judgement of history" that the term "classic" is attempting to express. Trashy novels like Twilight, Jane Austen etc will never be classics.

    October 22, 2010

  • I think perhaps the idea of popularity is misleading. For example, The Anatomy of Melancholy is hardly read by anyone who is not a devotee of Elizabethan literature, but neither is it disliked in the sense that the word "unpopular" might convey. It's just very rarely heard of outside of a given academic or historical field. I would call it "classic" for much the same reasons that I would call Shakespeare's near-contemporary but much more "popular" sonnets "classic": it is renowned in its genre as a superlative work of its time, not that it is a widely read book today that happened to be written long ago. Thus we can also have science fiction classics from less than fifty years ago, as for example A Canticle for Leibowitz.

    October 22, 2010

  • Can anyone enlighten me on what makes a novel a classic?
    I've read that: 'A novel can be called a classic when there is a significant time period between its publishing
    and the current age we are in...as well as critically renowned as a good novel.'

    Now, does that 'critically' mean by formal critics? or renowned critically? (is there a difference?) If it is the latter, there are a lot of trashy novels (such as Twilight) that are renowned critically by many, but are definately not worth being a classic in the future. On the other hand, if the case is the former, I guess you could argue that just because a book is renowned by critics doesn't mean it's popular, and does an unpopular book deserve to be a classic? I can't think of any examples off the top of my mind, but I am sure there are many.

    I could be mistaken about the whole thing. Please, correct me if I'm wrong.

    October 22, 2010

  • In stamp collecting, an early issue, often with a connotation of rarity, although classic stamps are not necessarily rare.

    August 25, 2008

  • Oy.

    September 7, 2007