Someone's ex is a person who was their wife, husband, or partner in the past. Cambridge Dictionary

I noticed some usages for word ex with things (not person). e.g. Ex Machina movie.

Some people say: this is my ex car, my ex office. ... is it kind of kidding or we can use it with things?

  • 5
    Note that the English word ex is not the same thing as the Latin word ex (as in Ex Machina), nor is it interchangeable with the prefix ex-.
    – choster
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 19:50
  • You need to add some regular language examples of such usage.
    – user3169
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 20:23

1 Answer 1


The use of "ex" in the movie "Ex Machina" is not the same as the "ex" in "my ex-wife". The movie title is Latin, and means "out of the machine", although it's likely a reference to the literary phrase "Deus Ex Machina" meaning "God from the Machine".

(In classical Greek theater when the hero was in trouble at the climactic scene, a "god" would descend on a mechanism to come save him. In modern cinema it refers to any cliche or highly improbable means whereby the hero is saved from certain death. Many consider it a "cheap" trick, but it can be used in clever ways. How it relates to this particular movie, I'll leave to your interpretation.)

Otherwise you can use ex- with almost anything, to imply that thing is no longer part of your life. Although since "ex-" is most often used with "wife" it can imply that you once had a deep and significant relationship with that thing, with an unpleasant breakup:

A. I saw your friend Stephanie the other day.
B. Ex-friend, you mean. Stephanie and I are not on speaking terms.

For this reason I wouldn't usually say something like "my ex-dog", unless I really didn't like the dog. Similarly, "my ex-car" sounds like the car really let me down at some important moment, so it might be a funny thing to say.

A. Hey is that a new car?
B. Yes, my "ex" quit on me in the middle of the freeway, so I decided to start seeing other cars.

As far as humor goes, it's kind of clumsy. You would have to be pretty clever to make it truly funny (see StonyB's comment and the Monty Python link below for a classic example).

  • 3
    Very technically speaking, the two ex- es are the same - they both have the same origin meaning "out". But yeah, in practical usage, "ex machina" doesn't mean "the former machine" and "ex-wife" doesn't mean "out of the wife."
    – stangdon
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 21:41
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    +1 But a classically good joke: 'E's not pinin'! 'E's passed on! This parrot is no more! He has ceased to be! 'E's expired and gone to meet 'is maker! 'E's a stiff! Bereft of life, 'e rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! 'Is metabolic processes are now 'istory! 'E's off the twig! 'E's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleedin' choir invisibile!! THIS IS AN EX-PARROT!! Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 21:51
  • youtube.com/watch?v=4vuW6tQ0218 But you kinda have to be John Cleese to pull it off :)
    – Andrew
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 22:36
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    It's not really accurate to say "Very technically speaking, [they] are the same". They aren't the same, present tense. More precisely, they were the same, past tense, just like how grammar, grimoire, and glamor were once the same word but are now different words.
    – user230
    Commented Mar 17, 2017 at 23:53

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