factoid

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English[edit]

Etymology[edit]

From fact +‎ -oid (similar, but not the same); coined by American writer Norman Mailer in 1973 in Marilyn: A Biography, defined as "facts which have no existence before appearing in a magazine or newspaper, creations which are not so much lies as a product to manipulate emotion in the Silent Majority".

Pronunciation[edit]

  • IPA(key): /ˈfæk.tɔɪd/
  • (file)

Noun[edit]

factoid (plural factoids)

  1. An inaccurate statement or statistic believed to be true because of broad repetition, especially if cited in the media. [from 1973]
    Synonym: misconception
    Coordinate term: urban legend
    • 2018, James Lambert, “Setting the Record Straight: An In-depth Examination of Hobson-Jobson”, in International Journal of Lexicography, volume 31, number 4, DOI:10.1093/ijl/ecy010, page 487:
      Such hedging is necessitated by the lack of in-depth knowledge of the contents, which also gives free rein to the scripting of unsubstantiated factoids concerning the book.
  2. (originally Canada, US) An interesting item of trivia; a minor fact.
    Synonym: factlet
    • 2013 December 24, William Grimes, “Big Data Becomes a Mirror”, in New York Times[3]:
      Given a large enough storehouse of words and a fine filter, would it be possible to see cultural change at the micro level, to follow minute fluctuations in human thought processes and activities? Tiny factoids, multiplied endlessly, might assume imposing dimensions.
    • 2013, Nancy Duarte, Resonate: Present Visual Stories that Transform Audiences, John Wiley & Sons (→ISBN)
      Don't parade in front of the audience spewing every factoid you know on your topic. Only share the right information for that exact moment with that specific audience.

Translations[edit]

Usage notes[edit]

The more recent and contradictory meaning “minor fact” is gradually supplanting the original sense.[1][2]

Further reading[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ William Safire (1993-12-05), “On Language; Only the Factoids”, in New York Times[1]
  2. ^ David Marsh (2014-01-17), “A factoid is not a small fact. Fact”, in The Guardian[2]