Old Hat – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Do you want to explain that you are good at something that has been around for a while? Maybe you just want to say that you feel someone or something is old-fashioned. If so, the term “old hat” is a great way to get your feelings across in just two words. This post unpacks the meaning and origin of this expression.


When someone says that something is “old hat” they mean that it is out of date or overly familiar. It can also stand to infer that something has been done so often that it is now familiar or uninteresting. For example, if your parents tell you the story of how they met so often you have it memorized, it is “old-hat” to you now.

Anything that is overused or repeated too often can also be considered old-hat. Things that are out of fashion or have simply become staples are also old-hat. The phrase can be used to refer to almost anything in either a positive or negative light. For example, a seasoned detective is considered an “old hat” at the investigation game. Or, someone may repeat the same outfit so often that it is now an expected old-hat behavior from them.

Example Usage

“When it comes to writing about fictional horror, Steven King is an old-hat at the genre”.

“Dealing with constant disappointment makes coping with setbacks feel old-hat regardless of their severity”.

“Getting everything you desire may seem old-hat to you, but for most people, settling for what is available has become the norm”.

“Riling up the opposition party is old-hat to those in power now, it’s no longer even a challenge in the current political climate”.


Old-hat was a popular term used in the 1700s which was used as a euphemism for a woman’s nether regions. It was mainly used by the younger crowd at the time, or by men in conversation when referring to a woman’s body. It was first seen in The Intrigues at Versailles which was in print, and very popular during the time. Over time, the phrase lost favor and fell out of use.

The term old hat was first seen in the early parts of the 1900s with the meaning of being old or old-fashioned. During the time, men were known to wear felt hats which often took on the look of a beaten piece of fabric. This was mainly due to the repeated use and the penchant for felt hats to look weathered rather quickly.

Specifically, in 1911, Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch, who was a Cornish writer, use the phrase “old-hat” in his novel. The book Brother Copas is the title in which he used the phrase specifically speaking about actually worn-out old hats. The phrase transformed into a common usage form of saying old-fashioned somewhere in the late 1920s’ to early 1930s.

Phrases Similar to Old Hat

  • Old-fashioned
  • Commonplace
  • Out of date
  • Routine
  • Well-worn
  • Habitual

Phrases Opposite to Old Hat

  • Contemporary
  • Newfangled
  • Chic
  • High-tech
  • Latter-day
  • New-fashioned

What is the Correct Saying?

  • The proper way to say the phrase is – old-hat.

Ways People May Incorrectly Say Old Hat

Some ways that Old Hat is used incorrectly are:

  • Riding a bike is just like an old hat, you get on and you go.

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Old Hat

Some ways that Old Hat is used correctly are:

  • That old hat down the street is always trying to tell me how to live my life and raise my children.
  • The best workers are the old hats, they are very experienced in their trade and can create unique solutions that meet your needs.
  • Wearing colored dresses for a wedding is old hat now, but there are some high society circles that still call it fashion.
  • Trying to get a discount out of that old hat of a grocer is not in the cards. It’s better to shop online instead.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *