The linguistic abilities of children born preterm at 32 weeks' gestation or earlier at Kuopio University Hospital during 1984 to 1986 were evaluated during successive phases of a prospective study. The study protocol included the Rapid Automatic Naming test and Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children – Revised at 9 years of age and a modified Stroop Color-Word test and the Wechsler Intelligence Scale – Revised at the age of 16 years. Fifty-one children born preterm (26 males, 25 females) and 51 age-matched and sex-matched term controls (26 males, 25 females) were studied at the age of 9 years. At the age of 16 years, 40 children born preterm (19 males, 21 females) and 31 term controls (14 males, 17 females) participated in the study. The children born preterm scored significantly lower in two naming tasks than the controls at the age of 9 years. However, there was no difference between the study groups in naming skills at the age of 16 years or in verbal IQ in either study phase. Maternal education level was not associated with naming skills. Thus, the consequences of preterm birth seem to be minor in relation to linguistic skills during school age and diminish by adolescence.