noun anach·ro·nism \ə-ˈna-krə-ˌni-zəm\

Definition of anachronism

  1. 1 :  an error in chronology; especially :  a chronological misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other found several anachronisms in the movie

  2. 2 :  a person or a thing that is chronologically out of place; especially :  one from a former age that is incongruous in the present By the time I reached my teens, the housewife was an anachronism, replaced on television by the perky, glamorous, character of That Girl, Marlo Thomas, who kept her boyfriend at bay in the interest of pursuing her acting career. — Joyce Maynard

  3. 3 :  the state or condition of being chronologically out of place


play \ə-ˌna-krə-ˈnis-tik\ or less commonly


play \ˌa-nə-ˈkrä-nik\ adjective


play \ə-ˌna-krə-ˈnis-ti-k(ə-)lē\ adverb


play \ə-ˈna-krə-nəs\ adjective



anachronism was our Word of the Day on 11/19/2009. Hear the podcast!

Examples of anachronism in a sentence

  1. In our modern world of pre-made, rush-rush, tightly scheduled lives, Amanda Blake Soule is an anachronism. At their home in coastal Maine, her family of six makes most of what they use—everything from bread and crafts to clothes and toys. —Jean Van't Hul, Mothering, March/April 2009

  2. The spy thriller is a genre that arguably should have died fifteen years ago, and its continued popularity seems an anachronism at first glance. —Rand Richards Cooper, Commonweal, 14 Sept. 2007

  3. With few exceptions, work opportunities for older people diminished after the Civil War as the United States metamorphosed into an urban-industrial order, inaugurating a second phase in the history of retirement. The village blacksmith became an anachronism as the craftsman retreated before the new mass-production industries. —W. Andrew Achenbaum, Wilson Quarterly, Spring 2006

  4. But Shakespeare may have drifted into anachronism here. According to Rogers, food in France at the time of Agincourt was probably just as meaty and unsophisticated as it was in England. —Jonathan Ree, Prospect, August, 2003

  5. It is true that in the closing years of the century William Jennings Bryan could still rise to national political leadership through his superb oratorical skills, but it is equally true that he lived to see himself become an anachronism, the bearer of a style redolent of an earlier culture. —Lawrence W. Levine, The Unpredictable Past, 1993

  6. The novel is full of anachronisms.

  7. He's an old-fashioned politician who is seen by many of his colleagues as an anachronism.

Did You Know?

An anachronism is something that is out of place in terms of time or chronology. The word derives from chronos, the Greek word for "time," and ana-, a Greek prefix meaning "up," "back," or "again." When it was first used in English in the 17th century, anachronism referred to an error in the dating of something (as, for example, in etymology, when a word or use is mistakenly assumed to have arisen earlier than it did). Anachronisms were sometimes distinguished from parachronisms, chronological errors in which dates are set later than is correct. But parachronism did not stand the test of time. It is now a very rare word.

Origin and Etymology of anachronism

probably from Middle Greek anachronismos, from anachronizesthai to be an anachronism, from Late Greek anachronizein to be late, from Greek ana- + chronos time

First Known Use: 1617

ANACHRONISM Defined for English Language Learners


noun anach·ro·nism \ə-ˈna-krə-ˌni-zəm\

Definition of anachronism for English Language Learners

  • : something (such as a word, an object, or an event) that is mistakenly placed in a time where it does not belong in a story, movie, etc.

  • : a person or a thing that seems to belong to the past and not to fit in the present

Seen and Heard

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a brief usually trivial fact

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