from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A note placed at the bottom of a page of a book or manuscript that comments on or cites a reference for a designated part of the text.
  • noun Something related to but of lesser importance than a larger work or occurrence.
  • transitive verb To furnish with or comment on in footnotes.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun In printing, a note at the bottom of a page as an appendage to something in the text, usually explaining a passage in the text, or specifying authority for a statement.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun A note of reference or comment at the foot{4} of a page.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A short piece of text, often numbered, placed at the bottom of a printed page, that adds a comment, citation, reference etc, to a designated part of the main text
  • noun by extension An event of lesser importance than some larger event to which it is related
  • verb To add footnotes to a text; to annotate

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • verb add explanatory notes to or supply with critical comments
  • noun a printed note placed below the text on a printed page


Sorry, no etymologies found.


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  • Finally, the economic character of purchasing health care would seem to require careful pause before considering it to be encompassed within the right to privacy, as the very sentence this footnote is appended to: “[T] he existence of facts supporting the legislative judgment is to be presumed, for regulatory legislation affecting ordinary commercial transactions is not to be pronounced unconstitutional unless, in the light of the facts made known or generally assumed, it is of such a character as to preclude the assumption that it rests upon some rational basis within the knowledge and experience of the legislators.”

    The Volokh Conspiracy » New lawsuit on Obamacare

  • See also the sources cited in footnote 2 (page 2 of the PDF).

    Matthew Yglesias » Too Much Prison

  • One of them sat on my couch the other day hooked up to tubes and suctions and a giant deconstructed bra, looking like some fetish ad, or a footnote from the Josef Mengele years.

    The Case Against Breast-Feeding

  • Another interesting footnote from the research is that while DSL is the most popular access technology at 65 percent, fiber has doubled to 12 percent during 2008, driven in part by demand for services such as IPTV that require faster speeds.

    Stat Shot: IPTV Growing Broadband Slowing

  • One of them sat on my couch the other day hooked up to tubes and suctions and a giant deconstructed bra, looking like some fetish ad, or a footnote from the Josef Mengele years.

    The Case Against Breast-Feeding

  • This of course would be wrong. if you look at the CBPP piece though the asterisk for the vague footnote is in the nominal $ column and not the % of GDP column, indicating that the authors are in fact discounting nominal numbers using nominal interest rates (as they should).

    The Budget Debate, VI, Arnold Kling | EconLog | Library of Economics and Liberty

  • (Gibbon tells us, in footnote 47 to chapter III, that he actually gave public philosophy lectures, as Emperor, in Rome, Greece and Asia; presumably we have here some of the raw materials for those lectures.)

    October Books 21) Year's Best SF 7, edited by David G. Hartwell

  • Nonetheless, the text of the footnote is clear on one point: the Court did not mean to overturn or modify the enrolled bill rule of Marshall Field.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Does Marshall Field v. Clark Preclude a Challenge to “Deem and Pass”?

  • NOTE: A point that I wanted to raise in my last post, in the second footnote, is that in Avatar, form supports and mirrors the story and its central themes -- one of which is to "see" differently, to look with a new perspective.

    Will You Go See Avatar?

  • Finally, having read the Third and Eleventh Circuit cases cited in footnote 166, neither holds as a matter of precedent that ordinary standards of appellate review applies.

    The Volokh Conspiracy » A Crime Victim’s Right to Appellate Review?


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  • I once ran across an article with hilarious footnotes. The first twenty were completely serious, then the author started testing his luck. The editor either never caught them, or thought that they were too funny to cut. I need to see if I can find that one....

    May 12, 2007

  • I used to get a chuckle out of some of Mark Twain's footnotes. You'd have a story's dialogue written in a thick, nearly unreadable Deep South accent, and then instead of clarifying what any of it means, he chooses the most standard words you already know to footnote with definitions.

    May 14, 2007

  • There h'aint nothin' wrawng wit' uh Deep South ak sent.

    May 14, 2007

  • Ah's jezt gon t'say yew h'aint done finched writing1 t'other pawrt o'yer quotayshun, hun.

    1To clarify: the word writing refers in this instance to the act of transcribing words for the sake of communication.

    May 14, 2007

  • Ouch. Ow. That hurts my ears! I live too far north! ;-)

    While youz guys are at it, you might want to test yourselves here:

    May 15, 2007

  • 38% Dixie. I am definitely a Yankee. :-)

    May 15, 2007

  • You're 1% more Dixie than I am. Must have had a Coke for breakfast. ;-)

    May 15, 2007

  • 5% Dixie. Need help digging out of the snow?

    I love the "tonic" one. Answer: Massachusetts!

    May 15, 2007

  • The funny thing is, I grew up in Southwest Florida. One of few places in the U.S. that's actually further south than the Deep South. In my stomping grounds, everybody's a transplant from the North, retired or snowbirding for the most part. So even though my speech pinpoints me to the midwest or New England, I'm really from the Sunshine State.

    (In fairness, I was born in Michigan but my family moved when I was a tyke. I'm sure I picked up a lot of speech tendencies from the parents though.)

    May 15, 2007

  • Yep, it's an interesting test, all right. I've lived in the Northeast my whole life, but apparently have picked up Midwest and Southern speech patterns and phrases. I suppose it's not all that surprising when you consider how easy it is to interact with people worldwide these days while still sitting on your butt in your own chair. :-)

    By the way, when I took the "advanced" test on that page, I came up only 1% Dixie. Go figure.

    May 15, 2007

  • Yeah, it makes me wonder: as the internet grows more and more ubiquitous, will these sorts of tests even be relevant anymore? In, say, 20 years, will regional dialects even exist? On the larger scale of maybe 50 to 100 years, I wonder if the whole world might become monolingual. It seems that in the digital age, the ability to communicate on a global scale is more important than ever. And from the looks of things, English is already pretty much the standard online.

    May 15, 2007

  • I wonder that too at times, but...hmm. Wouldn't that depend on *how* people learn language, on who teaches them? I'm not a linguistics expert, but I'd imagine that direct human interaction would still have to be important. As for the world becoming monolingual--eesh, I hope not! What fun would that be?

    Seriously, though, I suspect that those of us whose first language is English may not completely appreciate the concept of adapting to a standard language that's not ours.

    May 15, 2007

  • I think that the test itself is slightly biased, because it won't let you give more than one answer. I use tennis shoes and sneakers interchangeably.

    Seen on the advanced test:

    Answer: My spouse packs for me.

    Reply: Mine does too.

    May 16, 2007

  • I remember reading years ago that pundits predicted the demise of regional accents and variations in language after the advent of television, but that contrary to expectations, regional differences actually increased. So maybe fears that the interweb will homogenize language are unfounded.

    No idea where I read that about TV, though. Maybe I made it up :-)

    May 16, 2007

  • It's hard to say. I only speak English; I know a little Spanish but even getting that much was miserable and I have no desire to learn more. So there's some cruelty in my suggesting that the rest of the world ought to be like me when I won't extend the same courtesy. I'm a big fat hypocrite. (Typical American, right?)

    All the same, there seem to be a lot of people doing just that, in surprising corners of the world, and I'm always astounded to hear where the faceless avatars I talk with online are actually from. I admit I tend to be Ameri-centric. But surely it means something when I'm communicating with Koreans and Indians and Moroccans on the web, and never even suspect a thing. I don't believe that was nearly as common (or nearly as possible) before the internet.

    Sure, a monolingual world is unlikely and will probably never happen. But we're getting closer, for better or worse. Cultures far apart are merging in unnatural ways (for example, Japan's assimilation of the West) and English is becoming more widespread. And as it gets harder and harder for people to avoid the internet, I think these trends will only grow more common. I won't claim to know the future, but it should be interesting to watch regardless.

    May 16, 2007

  • I think that people tend to hold onto regionalisms as defense against the homogenization of the world. I remember reading about some island on the east coast that had a distinctive accent. Somehow, a bridge was built or something connected it more easily to the mainland and more people started to move there (and more islanders commuted to the mainland to work...)

    In response, island accents thickened, especially for the younger generation who spend more time on the mainland - a badge of belonging/"I was here first"

    May 16, 2007

  • Trivet, I think I've read about that island, too. And John, same goes with the TV assumption (although I don't recall where I heard/read it either). U, I think you're right about the effect the Internet is having on the spread of the English language--and I certainly didn't mean to imply you're a big fat hypocrite (if so, you're in good and plentiful company!). I think it's fascinating to see what has happened with language since the Internet has allowed people from far-flung places to communicate easily--and how it usually confounds our predictions and expectations. :-)

    Jennarenn, some of those answer choices annoyed me too (I don't pronounce "oil" in ANY of the ways provided, for example). It's just good fun, I guess....

    May 16, 2007

  • On the first test I got 46% Dixie. On the advanced test I got 16% Dixie.

    That is all.

    October 12, 2007

  • I did find the following delightful notes at the end of "Deconstructing Astronomy's Holy Grail" by Steve Nadis (AIR May/June 2006).

    2. I can't cite any official "source" for this statement, but trust me, it's true.

    3. Hinted at (though not explicitly detailed) in the aforementioned "In Search of the Holy Grail," Annals of Improbable Research, March/April 1996, pp. 4-6...

    21. Reference unknown; lost by the editor of this journal (though he is certain to deny it and cast blame elsewhere--on a surrogate, perhaps).

    22. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle never wrote this mystery but surely would have had there been an additional installment in the Sherlock Holmes saga.

    23. You can be sure I have much more to say on this subject, but my editor is kind of stingy when it comes to "word count." Fortunately, he tends to get tired by the end of a wearying article like this and, as a result, inattentive. If you are reading this note, you can be sure he never got this far. His loss is our gain.

    Tee-hee. There were other footnotes, but they weren't funny.

    October 23, 2007

  • Funny footnotes are pearls! The most enjoyable ones that I have encountered with were in the book called Good Omens.

    March 2, 2008

  • On the subject of footnotes I recommend David Langford's essay and a response with comments at Crooked Timber—especially the Borgesian plot idea.

    March 2, 2008

  • Thanks for the link winks, Vanished One. Fictional footnotes are also ranked high in me head. Also poems with footnotes are quite an adventure.

    March 2, 2008

  • Good Omens is a marvelous, marvelous book. The Bartimaeus Trilogy also has some wonderfully hilarious footnotes, particularly for a young adult/children's series.

    March 3, 2008

  • Agreed, Good Omens is a fabulous read.

    March 3, 2008

  • Ignore the Chicago Manual of Style at your peril.

    October 24, 2008

  • Haha!

    October 28, 2008

  • Footnotes are the finer-suckered surfaces that allow tentacular paragraphs to hold fast to the wider reality of the library.

    --Nicholson Baker, 1988, The Mezzanine, p. 123, footnote

    July 17, 2010