Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • adjective Belonging to the highest rank or class.
  • adjective Serving as the established model or standard.
  • adjective Having lasting significance or worth; enduring.
  • adjective Adhering or conforming to established standards and principles.
  • adjective Of a well-known type; typical.
  • adjective Of or characteristic of the literature, art, and culture of ancient Greece and Rome; classical.
  • adjective Formal, refined, and restrained in style.
  • adjective Simple and harmonious; elegant.
  • adjective Having historical or literary associations.
  • noun An artist, author, or work generally considered to be of the highest rank or excellence, especially one of enduring significance.
  • noun A work recognized as definitive in its field.
  • noun A literary work of ancient Greece or Rome.
  • noun The languages and literature of ancient Greece and Rome. Used with the.
  • noun One that is of the highest rank or class.
  • noun A typical or traditional example.
  • noun Informal A superior or unusual example of its kind.
  • noun A traditional event, especially a major sporting event that is held annually.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • 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.
  • noun 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.
  • noun A literary production of the first class or rank; specifically, in the plural, the literature of ancient Greece and Rome.
  • noun One versed in the classics.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • adjective Of or relating to the first class or rank, especially in literature or art.
  • adjective 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.
  • adjective Conforming to the best authority in literature and art; chaste; pure; refined.
  • adjective (Arch.) See under Order.
  • noun 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.
  • noun One learned in the literature of Greece and Rome, or a student of classical literature.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

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

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

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

Etymologies

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

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

Examples

Comments

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  • Oy.

    September 7, 2007

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

    August 25, 2008

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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 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

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

    October 22, 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

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

    October 27, 2010