Is it right to say "I was talking to a 49er" to aim that "I was talking to a 49-year-old man"?

I know that it's meaningless to say it, but my question is:

"Is (age)er = (age)-year-old man"?

  • We have "teenager", one who is in his or her teens, and (in the US) third-grader (fourth-, fifth- sixth-, etc), one who is in the third year of elementary school, but not <age>er.
    – TimR
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 21:23
  • 21
    I live in the U.S. If you were to tell me that you were "talking to a 49er," the first thing that would come to my mind is that you were talking to a member of this famous sports team – such as a current or former player or coach.
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 21:43
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    I was surprised by the number of things "49er" could refer to on the wikipedia page. None were 49 year old person though.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 21:53
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    To the original poster, the question has already been answered "49er" is not the same as "49-year-old". Thank goodness you didn't ask about a 69er or this conversation would have gone horribly wrong. :) Chapka came the closest that I saw. A "49er" refers to the gold rush and the miners that moved west... in 1849. All the other references (San Franciso 49ers, etc) stem from this term/usage.
    – user11895
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 14:58
  • As a side note, a teenager is normally defined as someone in their teens, or the ages of 13-19, inclusive. You can say teenager to refer to anybody in the group, but you don't say 13-ager. You say 13-year-old. Oh, sorry, I see @TRomano already mentioned this. Well in Canada, they always put the grade first, followed by cardinal number, so Grade-3er? No, that doesnt work...
    – user6951
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 21:14

6 Answers 6


No. Referring to a forty-nine-year-old man as a "49er" is not idiomatic in either American or British usage. The more idiomatic expression would be "49-year-old," as in:

I was talking to a 49-year-old.

"49er" or "forty-niner" is an English word, but it has nothing to do with age. It refers to one of a wave of gold prospectors who traveled to the American West, and especially California, in 1849. So, for example, the first verse of the song "Clementine" is:

In a cavern, in a canyon,
Excavating for a mine,
Lived a miner forty-niner
And his daughter, Clementine.

This is why San Francisco, California's American football team is named the "Forty-Niners."

  • 10
    You could also use the informal fortysomething, which I believe gained traction after a television show with a similar name. However, that word seems more appropriate only if you aren't sure of the person's age.
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 23:00
  • I've heard the mining angle used before: Time's Arrow in ST:TNG. Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 0:14
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    In the US, the term "49er" is generally slang for a miner or the overall mining industry.
    – Omegacron
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 15:14
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    @Omegacron: Is it really? I've only heard it applied to historical miners, never present-day miners. Can you link to an example? Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 23:04
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    FWIW there are three NFL teams in California (the others being Oakland and San Diego). Not to take away from the effect on California as a whole, which was profound, but the rush of '49 is especially significant to San Francisco, which had 500 residents in 1847 and 36000 in 1852. Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 10:03

DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince referred to a gold-digger as "The girl ain't nothing but a 49er" in their track "You Got It (Donut)" from their 1989 album And In This Corner...

I was contemplatin' her bein' my wife and
All she was tryin to do was siphon
Every single dime that she could extort
She was Jane the Ripper, and she couldn't be caught
My friends tried to tell me but I stood behind her
("The girl ain't nothin but a 49er")
They tried to tell me but I couldn't be told
Because her beauty was a shovel that was diggin for gold


A "gold-digger" is a person who dates others purely to extract money from them, in particular a woman who strives to marry a wealthy man, so you could use "49er" as a slang reference to this type of person. Probably not very common usage judging by having to use a 25 year old reference ;)

  • 6
    Actually, the reference stems from the original definition of a 49er, the wave of settlers looking to strike it big in the gold rush to California in 1849. So a 49er is, literally, a gold digger, as umm.. DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince.. so eloquently(?) use the term.
    – corsiKa
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 20:59

I have never heard or seen this type of expression. I would use only "I was talking to a 49-year-old man". If I were not sure of his exact age, I might refer to him as a man in his late forties.

  • 3
    My experience with #-er words is that the number usually refers to a date, battalion or other group number, number of people in a group, or number of days/weeks/years someone has been part of a group - almost anything but a person's age. Heck, there's a minor league baseball team called 66ers that are named after Route 66.
    – ColleenV
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 22:04
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    @ColleenV - Oklahoma City had a minor league baseball team called the 89ers, after the 1889 land rush.
    – J.R.
    Commented Nov 11, 2014 at 23:02
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    Chapka's answer is correct. "49er" is a specific term used to refer to people involved in the gold rush of 1849 in the Western U.S. It has nothing to do with age.
    – reirab
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 4:04
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    @ColleenV The question asked if that is what "49er" means. It is not.
    – reirab
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 6:14
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    @reirab If the person had chosen a different number for the age in their example, it would have nothing to do with the gold rush. The question is stated as "Is (age)er = (age)-year-old man"?
    – ColleenV
    Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 15:23

No, a 49er refers to a person who plays for the San Francisco 49ers, the American Football team.

You: "I was siting next to a 49er at the bar today."

Friend: "Sweet! Was it Frank Gore!?!?"

As others have said, the correct way would be to refer to him as a "49-year-old".


"Thirty-something" originally meant a person who was forty one, "in denial" about their age, and still pretending they were in their thirties.

Now, it just means someone who is actually in their thirties.

But "forty-niners" is, as the person above said, a reference to the California gold-rush boom in 1849.


The only "number related" -er words I can think of are

  • fiver - a five pound note
  • sixer - a boy scout in charge of his "six" team
  • tenner - a ten pound note
  • twenty-niner - a type of mountain bike with large wheels

and of course "forty niner" meaning someone in the gold rush as mentioned above

  • 3
    While interesting, I don't think these additional words are an answer to the question. Commented Nov 12, 2014 at 17:50
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    Can one "stick to the question" when trying to learn a language? Don't sweat Matthew Read, I won't bother with ell.stackexchange.com again :)
    – Vorsprung
    Commented Nov 13, 2014 at 8:44
  • 1
    @Vorsprung no need to take it personally. However, this is not a forum but a Q&A site. There is a question and there are answers to the question. Completely off-topic answers are generally downvoted, as interesting as they may be. It is not against the answerer, it is not against the goodness of content of the answer, it just means the answer is not on topic, that is all.
    – nico
    Commented Dec 27, 2014 at 21:23
  • @nico thanks yes, I do get it - but my comment above still holds. Having a Q&A site for learning a language simply doesn't work imho
    – Vorsprung
    Commented Jan 5, 2015 at 14:47

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