|elder as an adjective. Elder is not a synonym for elderly. In comparisons between two persons, as in a family, elder simply means ?older? but not necessarily ?old?: My elder sister is going off to college. In other contexts it does denote relatively advanced age but with the added component of respect for a person?s position or achievement: an elder statesman, an elder chief of the tribe. If it is age alone that you wish to express, you should use older or elderly: a survey of older Americans, an elderly waiter.
|elder as a noun. As with the adjective, the noun elder can be used comparatively without necessarily implying old age: He is my elder by three years. It can also refer to an office in certain churches or, more broadly, to a position of authority or respect conferred by age and experience: an elder in the Presbyterian Church, a tribal elder. The use of elder in the sense of ?an elderly person? is uncommon in contemporary English, though it is widely used as an attributive in such phrases as elder care and elder services.
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