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from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A usually chronological record of events, as of the life or development of a people or institution, often including an explanation of or commentary on those events: a history of the Vikings.
  • n. A formal written account of related natural phenomena: a history of volcanoes.
  • n. A record of a patient's medical background.
  • n. An established record or pattern of behavior: an inmate with a history of substance abuse.
  • n. The branch of knowledge that records and analyzes past events: "History has a long-range perspective” ( Elizabeth Gurley Flynn).
  • n. The past events relating to a particular thing: The history of their rivalry is full of intrigue.
  • n. The aggregate of past events or human affairs: basic tools used throughout history.
  • n. An interesting past: a house with history.
  • n. Something that belongs to the past: Their troubles are history now.
  • n. Slang One that is no longer worth consideration: Why should we worry about him? He's history!
  • n. A drama based on historical events: the histories of Shakespeare.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. The aggregate of past events.
  • n. The branch of knowledge that studies the past; the assessment of notable events.
  • n. A set of events involving an entity.
  • n. A record or narrative description of past events.
  • n. The list of past and continuing medical conditions of an individual or family.
  • n. A record of previous user events; specifically, a browser history, a history of visited Web pages.
  • n. Something that no longer exists or is no longer relevant.
  • v. To narrate or record.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A learning or knowing by inquiry; the knowledge of facts and events, so obtained; hence, a formal statement of such information; a narrative; a description; a written record
  • n. A systematic, written account of events, particularly of those affecting a nation, institution, science, or art, and usually connected with a philosophical explanation of their causes; a true story, as distinguished from a romance; -- distinguished also from annals, which relate simply the facts and events of each year, in strict chronological order; from biography, which is the record of an individual's life; and from memoir, which is history composed from personal experience, observation, and memory.
  • transitive v. To narrate or record.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A narrative, oral or written, of past events; a story: as, a history of England; a history of the civil war; a history of an individual.
  • n. The recorded events of the past; also, that branch of science which is occupied with ascertaining and recording the facts of the past.
  • n. Recorded or accomplished fact; also, the aggregate of the events, recorded or unrecorded, which mark a given period of past time, as in the development of an individual or of a race, etc.: as, a checkered history.
  • n. An eventful career; a past worthy of record: as, a man with a history.
  • n. In liturgics, in medieval English uses, as in the Use of Sarum, the series of responsories to a set of lections from the historical or other books of Scripture.
  • n. A historical play or drama.
  • To record; relate.

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

  • n. the continuum of events occurring in succession leading from the past to the present and even into the future
  • n. the aggregate of past events
  • n. all that is remembered of the past as preserved in writing; a body of knowledge
  • n. a record or narrative description of past events
  • n. the discipline that records and interprets past events involving human beings


Middle English histoire, from Old French, from Latin historia, from Greek historiā, from historein, to inquire, from histōr, learned man.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English, from Latin historia, from Ancient Greek ἱστορία (historia, "learning through research, narration of what is learned"), from ἱστορέω (historeō, "to learn through research, to inquire"), from ἵστωρ (histōr, "the one who knows, the expert"), from *ϝίδτωρ, from Proto-Indo-European *wid- (“wit, knowledge”). (Wiktionary)



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  • Interesting. I wondered just when the microhistory "era" (for lack of a better term) began. And here I've been trying to put a name to it for the past 10 years. :-)

    October 2, 2008

  • I don't know, microhistory started around 1970 or so--couple years give or take--and while the origin of the now-common phrase big picture may predate that time, I don't know that it was a national obsession. Correlation does not mean causation, though, of course.

    October 2, 2008

  • I wonder too. Or could it possibly be the other way around?

    October 1, 2008

  • That's actually a characteristic of all my favorite history books, reesetee. :) I'm delighted that this approach has found its way into so many recent publications. Could it be one of the causes of people thinking globally at the same time as they think locally? Of considering the "big picture" at the same time as the immediate issue(s)? *ponders*

    October 1, 2008

  • True, c_b. That paragraph is also what I liked about the book--its perspective on the broader topic along with the attention to fine detail.

    October 1, 2008

  • What I love about history:

    "You can tell the story of the Broad Street outbreak on the scale of a few hundred human lives ... but in telling the story that way, you limit its perspective, limit its ability to convey a fair account of what really happened, and, more important—why it happened. Once you get to why the story has to widen and tighten at the same time: to the long durée of urban development, or the microscopic tight focus of bacterial life cycles. These are causes, too."
    —Steven Johnson, The Ghost Map (New York: Penguin, 2006), 95–96

    That phrase is what I love about history: that it is a wide, broad story at the same time as it's a tight, focused one. History writing at its best. I know microhistory is a trend, albeit a long one, but it sure has its finer points!

    October 1, 2008

  • "History does not, "repeat itself", it repeats MAN!"

    --Jan Cox

    May 14, 2007

  • "History never repeats itself, but it sure rhymes a lot!" --can't remember who said this, but I sure remember it. :^)

    February 23, 2007

  • History: "An account, mostly false, of events, mostly unimportant, which are brought about by rulers, mostly knaves, and soldiers, mostly fools."

    December 21, 2006