I am studying in the UK to improve my English. I am French. Oxford Dictionary's 'Word of Day' showed a new word called 'sclerotic'.

The dictionary gave this entry:

losing the ability to change and adapt

The movement was becoming increasingly sclerotic and bureaucratic.

I thought, "this only applies to an old system or process slow to change and not growing fast enough". I checked the word's definition on Merriam Webster, to see if the entries are same. But no, Merriam Webster has different results. Merriam Webster has the entry "grown rigid or unresponsive especially with age: unable or reluctant to adapt or compromise". This makes me think of an old stubborn man or woman who don't want things to change. Can someone explain this word to me?

  • 1
    The term is sclérosé in French. It's in the Larousse...
    – Lambie
    Jul 7, 2022 at 18:05
  • I think you understand it well, shibeski. Sclerotic is often applied to things that have grown rigid with age. To use the word to describe a recent movement, as your example suggests, indicates the movement is exhibiting characteristics of old, unchanging systems, even if the movement is not itself old. Note the inclusion of the words was becoming. The movement was not old and rigid but it was becoming old and rigid.
    – EllieK
    Jul 7, 2022 at 18:56
  • @MichaelHarvey - Excellent observation. When the poster says they only thought it applied to an old system or process I inferred that the movement was not an old system or process since the poster was implying sclerotic did not apply to the movement. Inference and implication - the cornerstone of critical thinking.
    – EllieK
    Jul 8, 2022 at 12:30
  • @EllieK The 'movement' is an example in a dictionary. Nothing is implied or can be inferred. Jul 8, 2022 at 12:51

2 Answers 2


Sclerotic can be used to refer to any of these:

  1. Something physical, like a body part getting stiff and old
  2. Something conceptual, like an organization or a system
  3. A mindset, or a viewpoint, or a way of thinking (like a stubborn old man or woman)

So both the contexts/examples you've stated are correct uses of sclerotic.


Atherosclerosis, the thickening of the arteries around the b. odyBecoming more rigid and less effective at their job.

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