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Absolute vs. Obsolete: What's the Difference?

Edited by Janet White || By Harlon Moss || Updated on November 3, 2023
Absolute means total and without restriction; obsolete means out of date or no longer in use.

Key Differences

Absolute conveys completeness and the idea of being total or unquestionable. It is often used in contexts where there is no comparative degree, such as in 'absolute truth' where it signifies something that is considered to be universally true. Obsolete, on the other hand, denotes something that is outdated or no longer in use, like a piece of technology that has been superseded by newer innovations.
An absolute condition or principle is not subject to any limitations or conditions; it is often considered as final and definitive. For instance, an 'absolute monarchy' is a form of government where the monarch has total power. Conversely, when something becomes obsolete, it has fallen into disuse and is no longer relevant or useful in the current context, such as an 'obsolete word' which has fallen out of the language and is rarely recognized or understood by contemporary speakers.
Absolute can also pertain to total authority or an unqualified nature within various domains, such as law or monarchy. When one refers to 'absolute power', it implies a power that is not constrained by external checks and balances. Obsolete, however, refers to items or practices that have been phased out, often because they have been replaced by alternatives that serve the same function more effectively, like 'obsolete technology' which has been replaced by more advanced or efficient options.
In science, the concept of absolute can be used in terms like 'absolute zero', which refers to the lowest temperature theoretically possible. It represents a definitive physical limit. In contrast, the term obsolete is not about limits but about the passage of time and progress, as in a scientific theory that is rendered obsolete by new discoveries and understanding.
Absolute is derived from the Latin 'absolutus', meaning 'freed, unrestricted'. The word carries connotations of freedom from limitation or restraint. The term obsolete comes from the Latin 'obsoletus', meaning 'grown old, worn out', and often implies that something has been surpassed by more recent developments or innovations.

Comparison Chart


Total, unrestricted, or complete.
Outdated, no longer used or needed.


Often used in authority, truth, and laws.
Used for technology, language, practices.


Power, certainty, unconditionality.
Redundancy, disuse, supersession.


Does not change with context or time.
Changes with advancement and time.

Origin of Word

From Latin 'absolutus' (freed, complete).
From Latin 'obsoletus' (grown old, worn out).

Absolute and Obsolete Definitions


Not relative.
In the experiment, they sought an absolute measurement.


The old manual process has become obsolete due to automation.


Complete in itself.
They believed in the absolute truth of the prophecy.


No longer in use.
The floppy disk is now an obsolete technology.


He ruled with absolute power.


That model of the phone has been declared obsolete.


Utter; outright.
The film was an absolute disaster at the box office.


The obsolete words puzzled the young readers.


She enjoyed an absolute advantage in the competition.


Such an idea is obsolete in modern society.


Unqualified in extent or degree; total
Absolute silence.


No longer in use
An obsolete word.


Are absolute rules always fair?

Absolute rules are impartial but not always considered fair, as they don't account for exceptions.

Can a person be obsolete?

No, while a person's skills can become obsolete, the person themselves cannot.

Is 'absolute' always positive?

No, absolute can be negative, as in 'absolute disaster'.

Does obsolete always mean old?

Often, but something can become obsolete quickly due to rapid innovation.

Are absolute truths universal?

They are regarded as universal, though this is a subject of philosophical debate.

Can an obsolete practice come back into use?

Yes, sometimes obsolete practices are revived or rediscovered.

Can obsolete items be reused?

Yes, obsolete items can sometimes be repurposed or recycled.

How does absolute relate to monarchy?

It refers to a form of monarchy with unrestricted power.

Can a language become obsolete?

Yes, when a language has no living speakers, it's considered obsolete.

What does absolute mean in law?

In law, absolute means complete and unconditional, such as absolute liability.

What can make a technology obsolete?

Advances in innovation and more efficient alternatives can make a technology obsolete.

Does absolute mean perfect?

Not necessarily; absolute indicates completeness but not perfection.

Can morality be absolute?

Some believe in absolute morality, but others argue it's culturally relative.

How do companies deal with obsolete products?

Companies may discontinue, recycle, or repurpose obsolete products.

Is 'obsolete' a negative term?

It can be negative, suggesting uselessness, but it's often simply factual.

Can absolute power be a risk?

Yes, it can lead to abuse of power and lack of checks and balances.

What's the process of something becoming obsolete?

Obsolescence usually occurs when something is replaced by a more effective alternative.

What's an absolute phrase in grammar?

An absolute phrase is a sentence part describing the rest of the sentence without using a conjunction.

Is 'absolute zero' achievable?

Absolute zero is a theoretical limit in temperature, not yet achieved in practice.

Do all things eventually become obsolete?

Most things do due to the nature of progress and change.
About Author
Written by
Harlon Moss
Harlon is a seasoned quality moderator and accomplished content writer for Difference Wiki. An alumnus of the prestigious University of California, he earned his degree in Computer Science. Leveraging his academic background, Harlon brings a meticulous and informed perspective to his work, ensuring content accuracy and excellence.
Edited by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.

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