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

  • noun The depiction of fictional events, as in a television series or comic book, that entail a revision of the narrative presented in an earlier installment.
  • transitive verb To modify (a fictional character, for example) in this manner.

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

  • noun A situation, in a soap opera or similar serial fiction, in which a new storyline explains or changes a previous event or attaches a new significance to it
  • verb To employ such a device


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

[ret(roactive) + con(tinuity).]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

A blend of retroactive and continuity.


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  • Retroactive continuity. In serial fiction, copying a previous scene in a later episode, but changing or clarifying details to fit with the evolving storyline. It creates contradictions and holes in the story canon but eases the writing of new plot points.

    August 6, 2007

  • It's also a very difficult word not to misread (at least for me). ;-)

    August 6, 2007

  • "Short for 'retroactive continuity', retcon refers to the act of changing or adding to historical 'facts' in a work of serial fiction.


    The most recent Star Wars movie trilogy also served to fill in some of the gaps in the story. Superman Returns (2006) pretended that the awful Superman III and Superman IV never happened - which is no doubt exactly what the producers (and most critics) would have preferred. Fittingly, the term was first used by Superman's publisher, DC Comics.


    It has been used recently to describe more serious history - Like Keith Windschuttle's controversial take on native Tasmanians (which suggested that, despite what everyone thought, they weren't massacred by white settlers after all). It's also called revisionism, but retconning sounds snappier and less academic."

    - 'FYI' in GW, Mark Judder, 23 Feb 2008.

    February 26, 2008

  • retcon, n.

    The Guardian, 28 September 2018:

    The latest act of retroactive continuity (or “retcon” as it’s become known) to the source material comes via the final trailer for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, which confirmed that the mysterious character played by Korean actress Claudia Kim is in fact Nagini, the same Nagini who was Lord Voldemort’s right-hand-snake in the original books and film series.

    December 31, 2018