an·​ec·​dote ˈa-nik-ˌdōt How to pronounce anecdote (audio)
plural anecdotes also anecdota ˌa-nik-ˈdō-tə How to pronounce anecdote (audio)
: a usually short narrative of an interesting, amusing, or biographical incident

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The Greek Smear Job at the Root of Anecdote

The Byzantine official Procopius wrote three historical works in Greek. In the first two, he dealt with wars and public works projects, but the third was something of a departure from this kind of history. Referred to as "Anekdota," from the Greek a- meaning "not," and ekdidonai, meaning "to publish," it contained bitter attacks on the emperor Justinian, his wife, and other notables of contemporary Constantinople. Understandably, it was not published until after its writer's death. English speakers originally used an anglicized version of the book's name for similar secret or unpublished histories or biographies, and by the 17th century, the meaning of anecdote had been broadened to cover any interesting or amusing personal tale.

Examples of anecdote in a Sentence

Like many Jesuits who then ate most of their meals in refectories, McKenzie was a master raconteur with endless anecdotes, stories, and one-liners. Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, Commonweal, 11 Sept. 2009
If Antony had won, of course, the story would have been very different. Indeed, despite the dominance of the Augustan version of events, a few hostile anecdotes about the young Octavian probably offer a glimpse of what Antony's side was saying. Mary Beard, New York Review of Books, 12 Feb. 2009
appalling by turn, the dominant figure here is, as it should be, Evelyn. Evelyn Toynton, Harper's, August 2007
Any competent science reporter knows anecdotes are not data and that one dramatic story proves nothing. Editor & Publisher, 4 Nov. 2002
Deeply convinced of her own unattractiveness, frequently lonely and unimaginably needy, Joplin was a person who lived all over the page. It is impossible to read about her and not crave more anecdotes and personal details of such a wanton, tragic life. Kim France, New York Times Book Review, 2 May 1999
Alexander's use of the family's private papers—the Waughs were prolific writers of letters and diaries as well as books—not only adds richly to the entertainment value of his account but also serves to illuminate just how tangled are the threads of filial love, hurt, awe, and competitiveness that run through their work. Although he ranges freely over two centuries of family anecdotes, amusing and
He told us all sorts of humorous anecdotes about his childhood. told us once again that anecdote about the dog and the bike See More
Recent Examples on the Web In it, Daniels shares meaningful memories, tells funny anecdotes, acts out vignettes from his scripts and imagination, and performs the contemporary folk songs that have given him a side gig as a singer-songwriter. Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press, 7 Sep. 2023 Everyone thought the risqué anecdote was funny, except maybe the teen grandkids. Susan Young, Peoplemag, 2 Sep. 2023 Such insider anecdotes pepper this engaging memoir, offering insight into his coverage of such luminaries as Muhammad Ali, Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods. Becky Meloan, Washington Post, 31 Aug. 2023 Offering a humorous albeit sinister representation of modern times, the sculptures–which involve large boulders placed atop fabulously dressed hyper-realistic figures–are displayed in areas of Villa San Michele dripping with historical anecdotes. Jaimie Potters, Town & Country, 21 Aug. 2023 My husband Rob and I are living anecdotes for opposing chronotypes. Sherry Walling, Fortune Well, 15 Aug. 2023 The tome can also be used as an encyclopedia for fans, who’ll find anecdotes—ranging from movements to release dates to nicknames—for each model included. Demetrius Simms, Robb Report, 23 Aug. 2023 That anecdote feels almost metaphorical now, given the topics that are being debated during the Writers Guild of America and SAG-AFTRA contract negotiations. Seija Rankin, The Hollywood Reporter, 23 Aug. 2023 The moment that made King famous was an anecdote about his role in securing drinking water for the festival. Jonah Valdez, Los Angeles Times, 22 Aug. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'anecdote.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French, from Greek anekdota unpublished items, from neuter plural of anekdotos unpublished, from a- + ekdidonai to publish, from ex out + didonai to give — more at ex-, date

First Known Use

1718, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of anecdote was in 1718


Dictionary Entries Near anecdote

Cite this Entry

“Anecdote.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


an·​ec·​dote ˈan-ik-ˌdōt How to pronounce anecdote (audio)
: a brief story about something interesting or funny in a person's life

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