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Definition of Ageism

(noun) Discrimination or prejudice against an individual or group because of their age.

Examples of Ageism

  • Not hiring older individuals because of preconceived notions that their abilities will be lacking.
  • Not hiring young individuals because an employer thinks they are immature based on age regardless of personality and experience.
  • Disregarding or speaking over the elderly due to the notion that their opinions have no value.

Types of Ageism

  • Ageism can be broken down further into age discrimination and age prejudice. Age discrimination is the act and age prejudice is the attitude (Andersen and Taylor 2011:92).

Etymology of Ageism

Ageism Pronunciation

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: age·ism

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /AY-jiz-uhm/
  • British English – /AY-ji-zuhm/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˈeɪdʒˌɪz(ə)m/
  • British English – /ˈeɪdʒɪz(ə)m/

Usage Notes

Related Quotations

  • “Ageism against older persons is rooted in the assumption that people become unattractive, unintelligent, asexual, unemployable, and mentally incompetent as they grow older” (Kendall 2006:101).
  • “Ageism, like other expressions of prejudice, may have some foundation in reality. Statistically speaking, old people are more likely than young people to be mentally and physically impaired. But we slip into ageism when we make unwarranted generalisations about an entire category of people, most of whom do not conform to the stereotypes” (Macionis and Plummer 2012:418).
  • “In our society [United States], one of the most difficult transitions is the passage to old age. We are taught to fear aging in this society, and many people spend a lot of time and money trying to keep looking young. Unlike many other societies, ours does not revere the elderly, but instead devalues them, making the aging process even more difficult” (Andersen and Taylor 2011:91).
  • “Prejudice against the elderly is prominent. The elderly are often thought of as childlike and thus incapable of adult responsibility. Prejudice relegates people to a perceived lower status in society and stems from the stereotypes associated with different age groups” (Andersen and Taylor 2011:92).
  • “While youth and vitality are highly valued commodities in a postindustrial society, life expectancies and prospects for good health are extended. Consequently, people can be expected to work longer if they choose. Moreover, with less emphasis on work and more on service and play, postindustrial societies may offer the elderly a vast array of meaningful social roles outside the world of work” (Thompson and Hickey 2012:339).

Related Video

Additional Information

Related Terms


Andersen, Margaret L., and Howard Francis Taylor. 2011. Sociology: The Essentials. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Kendall, Diana. 2006. Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Macionis, John, and Kenneth Plummer. 2012. Sociology: A Global Introduction. 4th ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Works Consulted

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 5th ed. 2011. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Bruce, Steve, and Steven Yearley. 2006. The SAGE Dictionary of Sociology. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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Collins English Dictionary: Complete and Unabridged. 6th ed. 2003. Glasgow, Scotland: Collins.

Griffiths, Heather, Nathan Keirns, Eric Strayer, Susan Cody-Rydzewski, Gail Scaramuzzo, Tommy Sadler, Sally Vyain, Jeff Bry, Faye Jones. 2016. Introduction to Sociology 2e. Houston, TX: OpenStax.

Henslin, James M. 2012. Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. 10th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Kimmel, Michael S., and Amy Aronson. 2012. Sociology Now. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Kornblum, William. 2008. Sociology in a Changing World. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Macionis, John. 2012. Sociology. 14th ed. Boston: Pearson.

Macmillan. (N.d.) Macmillan Dictionary. (https://www.macmillandictionary.com/).

Marsh, Ian, and Mike Keating, eds. 2006. Sociology: Making Sense of Society. 3rd ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).

Ravelli, Bruce, and Michelle Webber. 2016. Exploring Sociology: A Canadian Perspective. 3rd ed. Toronto: Pearson.

Shepard, Jon M. 2010. Sociology. 11th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

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Stolley, Kathy S. 2005. The Basics of Sociology. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).

Cite the Definition of Ageism

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “ageism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved July 14, 2024 (https://sociologydictionary.org/ageism/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

ageism. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/ageism/

Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “ageism.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed July 14, 2024. https://sociologydictionary.org/ageism/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

“ageism.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 14 Jul. 2024. <https://sociologydictionary.org/ageism/>.