an·​ec·​dote | \ ˈa-nik-ˌdōt How to pronounce anecdote (audio) \
plural anecdotes also anecdota\ ˌa-​nik-​ˈdō-​tə How to pronounce anecdote (audio) \

Definition of anecdote

: a usually short narrative of an interesting, amusing, or biographical incident

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Synonyms for anecdote


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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 English speakers originally used an anglicized version of the book's name for similar secret or unpublished histories or biographies, and by the 17th century, the meaning of anecdote had been broadened to cover any interesting or amusing personal tale.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
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Recent Examples on the Web Chrissy Teigen shared a sweet anecdote about Tom Hanks after the inauguration primetime special Celebrating America, which Hanks hosted. Emily Dixon, Marie Claire, "Chrissy Teigen Shared a Heartwarming Tom Hanks Story from the Inauguration," 22 Jan. 2021 But the anecdote reminds us of the relationship people once had with these creatures—and their connection to nature more broadly. Jason Bittel, Animals, "Sleepy dormice are losing their cozy tree hollows," 28 Dec. 2020 This biblical anecdote sets up a framework that leaders and therapists could use when playing role-playing games. Eli Reiter, Wired, "How One Rabbi Uses Roleplaying Games to Build Community," 21 Jan. 2021 Directed by Mary Wharton, the documentary offers a strange brew of government and culture, looking at Jimmy Carter’s love of rock ’n’ roll music and how Carter used rock as a political tool (the Nelson anecdote is typical of the film). New York Times, "What’s on TV This Week: ‘Jimmy Carter Rock & Roll President’ and ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’," 28 Dec. 2020 Manseau uses this unsettling anecdote to illustrate the desacralizing impulse in Jefferson—the impulse that would lead to his cut-and-paste Bible. Vinson Cunningham, The New Yorker, "What Thomas Jefferson Could Never Understand About Jesus," 28 Dec. 2020 Pinkney relayed an anecdote that investigators included in the affidavit about an editorial board meeting held in the fall of 2018 at’s office after several inmates had died, and was probing the issues at the jail. Adam Ferrise, cleveland, "Inside the investigation into Cuyahoga County Executive Armond Budish," 24 Jan. 2021 One anecdote from our time together aptly illustrates David’s love of nuance. Jeff Leen, Washington Post, "What I learned about writing, fame and grace when I spent two weeks showing the master spy novelist around Miami," 30 Dec. 2020 My days at home with my daughter were full of emotion yet anecdote-less. Jenny Offill, The New Yorker, "A Lifetime of Lessons in “Mrs. Dalloway”," 29 Dec. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'anecdote.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of anecdote

1718, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for anecdote

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

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Time Traveler for anecdote

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The first known use of anecdote was in 1718

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Last Updated

1 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Anecdote.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Mar. 2021.

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More Definitions for anecdote



English Language Learners Definition of anecdote

: a short story about an interesting or funny event or occurrence


an·​ec·​dote | \ ˈa-nik-ˌdōt How to pronounce anecdote (audio) \

Kids Definition of anecdote

: a short story about something interesting or funny in a person's life

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