Waxing Nostalgic – Meaning, Origin and Usage

Does an older person in your life keep mournfully complaining that everything used to be better in the olden days? That person is “waxing nostalgic.” Learn what this phrase means, where it came from, and how to use it in this post.


The phrase “waxing nostalgic” or “to wax nostalgic” means speaking at length about one’s feelings of nostalgia, typically in a way that bores others.

Nostalgia can be defined as yearning for the past or remembering it fondly. When someone waxes nostalgic, that person rants about their nostalgic feelings. Someone who waxes nostalgic typically describes the past as a much better time.

Example Usage

Example sentences can help you better understand what a phrase means and prepare you to use it. These examples show how you can use the saying “waxing nostalgic” in practice:

  • “Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoy Uncle Jim’s yearly visits. I love to go fishing with him, but watch out when he grabs that scotch and starts waxing nostalgic about working as a miner in his youth. You’ll never hear the end of it!”
  • “Those conservative politicians just wax nostalgic about how everything used to be better, but they have no real plans for the future.”
  • “Yeah, that professor is great if you like listening to people wax nostalgic while basically telling kids to get off her lawn. Skip that course if you’re not into that kind of thing.”


The origin of the phrase “to wax nostalgic” is complex.

You have probably heard of a waxing moon. A waxing moon is the first half of the lunar cycle, during which the moon gradually becomes more visible.

This example illustrates one of the original meanings of the verb “to wax,” namely “to grow” or “to increase in size.” This word came from Proto-Germanic and became archaic by the 14th century. It remains in use only in specific contexts.

The moon cycle is one of these settings, and the other is in phrases that include the verb “to wax.”

“To wax eloquent,” which simply meant “to talk a lot about,” was the first of these phrases — it came into use in the 19th century.

Waxing poetic” is another example of a similar phrase in which the speaker gets philosophical.

The word “nostalgia,” which initially meant homesickness and now means a yearning for the past, only entered the English language in the 18th century.

“Waxing nostalgic” likely emerged after “waxing eloquent” and “waxing poetic”, however.

The phrase “waxing nostalgic” has become dated in the 21st century; this expression is only rarely used.   If you decide to incorporate it into your language, you can almost be said to be waxing nostalgic yourself.

Phrases Similar to Waxing Nostalgic

Does the phrase “to wax nostalgic” not feel right? You could also say:

  • The person who waxes nostalgic keeps going on about the “good old days.”
  • The person who waxes nostalgic likes to take “trips down memory lane.”
  • A nostalgic person might like to “turn back the clock.”

You can also say that people who wax nostalgic “live in the past.”

Phrases Opposite to Waxing Nostalgic

People who quickly adapt to new situations and forget about the past take a more pragmatic approach. Phrases that describe this attitude include:

  • Water under the bridge — meaning you can’t change the past, and it’s good to accept that fact.
  • Let bygones be bygones — meaning it’s not necessary to dwell on the past.

Carpe diem”, meaning “pluck the day,” is an optimistic phrase to describe this attitude.

What Is the Correct Saying?

The correct saying is “waxing nostalgic.” It means to rant about the past, which the person waxing nostalgic believes to be better than the present.

Ways People May Say Waxing Nostalgic Incorrectly

English learners should keep in mind that waxing nostalgic has no connection to beeswax or waxing cars. The “waxing” in the expression means “to increase” or “grow.”

Acceptable Ways to Phrase Waxing Nostalgic

You can say someone is waxing nostalgic when they talk about their past at length and express a yearning for an earlier and better time.


The expression is outdated now, so more people will understand you if you simply say that someone “likes to rant about the past.”

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