By Deane Barker

Definition: long-established; possessing a long history of something

I know this mainly from the phrase “inveterate liar.” I knew it was a adjective that implied amplification, but I wasn’t sure in what sense. Did it mean someone told big lies? Someone told lies without remorse or shame?

Turns out that it’s from the Latin word “vetus” which means “old.”

It’s mildly pejorative. You never hear of someone being “inveterate” in a good way. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard some someone described as “having an inveterate habit of donating to charity.”

I asked this exact question on the English StackExchange, and got some good responses:

  • Someone pointed out that the Oxford Learner’s dictionary describes the word as “formal, often disapproving”

  • Two people referred to Google Books references to “inveterate cheerfulness” and “inveterate philanthropist”

  • Another comment:

    Historical associations with damaging habits […] has cemented “inveterate” as a term for which a fatal habit is a corollary. Of course, there is nothing logically or grammatically incorrect about following the term with a positive habit, but it rings jarring in the context of historical usage. This is most likely because damaging habits themselves often denote a pathology and compulsion not associated with positive activities like charity or any other activity that might denote selflessness.

Why I Looked It Up

The “inveterate liar” phrase came up in some – shocker! – political context.


In a book about the history of networks in politics, the Russian poet Anna Akhmatova was described as an “inveterate romantic.”


Added on

From Faster:

He gradually improved his time, handling the many turns and bends with inveterate skill.


Added on

From Kingmakers:

An inveterate traveler and horsewoman herself, Lady Anne wrote admiringly of her younger colleague.

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