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Alternative forms[edit]


From Middle English historie, from Old French estoire, estorie (chronicle, history, story) (French histoire), from Latin historia, from Ancient Greek ἱστορίᾱ (historíā, learning through research), from ἱστορέω (historéō, to research, inquire (and) record), from ἵστωρ (hístōr, the knowing, wise one), from Proto-Indo-European *weyd- (see, know). Doublet of story and storey.

Attested in Middle English in 1393 by John Gower, Confessio Amantis,[1] which was aimed at an educated audience familiar with French and Latin.


  • enPR: hĭsʹt(ə)rē, hĭsʹtrĭ, IPA(key): /ˈhɪs.t(ə.)ɹi/, /ˈhɪs.tɹɪ/
    • (file)
    • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ɪstəɹi, -ɪstɹi
  • Hyphenation: his‧to‧ry, hist‧ory


history (countable and uncountable, plural histories)

  1. The aggregate of past events.
    Synonyms: background, past
    History repeats itself if we don’t learn from its mistakes.
    • 1918, W[illiam] B[abington] Maxwell, chapter VII, in The Mirror and the Lamp, Indianapolis, Ind.: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, →OCLC:
      With some of it on the south and more of it on the north of the great main thoroughfare that connects Aldgate and the East India Docks, St. Bede's at this period of its history was perhaps the poorest and most miserable parish in the East End of London.
    • 2012 March-April, Jan Sapp, “Race Finished”, in American Scientist, volume 100, number 2, page 164:
      Few concepts are as emotionally charged as that of race. The word conjures up a mixture of associations—culture, ethnicity, genetics, subjugation, exclusion and persecution. But is the tragic history of efforts to define groups of people by race really a matter of the misuse of science, the abuse of a valid biological concept?
    • 2017 June 24, James O'Shea, quoting Gerry Adams, “BREAKING: Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams says end to partition of Ireland “in a few short years””, in IrishCentral:
      So, we have a shared history - we will also have a shared future.
  2. The branch of knowledge that studies the past; the assessment of notable events.
    He teaches history at the university.
    History will not look kindly on these tyrants.
    He dreams of an invention that will make history.
    • 2013 September 6, Peter Beaumont, “Lessons of past cast shadows over Syria”, in The Guardian Weekly, volume 189, number 13, page 18:
      History and experience act as a filter that can distort as much as elucidate. It is largely forgotten now, overlooked in the one-line description of Tony Blair and George W Bush as the men who lied about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, but there was a wider context to their conviction.
  3. The portion of the past that is known and recorded by this field of study, as opposed to all earlier and unknown times that preceded it (prehistory).
    in all of human history and prehistory
    in all recorded history
  4. (countable) A set of events involving an entity.
    a long and sordid history
    What is your medical history?
    The family's history includes events best forgotten.
    • 2014 October 21, Oliver Brown, “Oscar Pistorius jailed for five years”, in The Daily Telegraph (Sport)[1]:
      [I]n the 575 days since [Oscar] Pistorius shot dead his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, there has been an unseemly scramble to construct revisionist histories, to identify evidence beneath that placid exterior of a pugnacious, hair-trigger personality.
  5. (countable) A record or narrative description of past events.
    Synonyms: account, chronicle, story, tale
    I really enjoyed Shakespeare's tragedies more than his histories.
    a short history of post-Columbian colonization
  6. (countable, medicine) A list of past and continuing medical conditions of an individual or family.
    Synonym: medical history
    A personal medical history is required for the insurance policy.
    He has a history of cancer in his family.
    This diagnosis is usually based solely on the history and physical examination, although laboratory tests are occasionally also obtained.
  7. (countable, computing) A record of previous user events, especially of visited web pages in a browser.
    Synonym: log
    I visited a great site yesterday but forgot the URL. Luckily, I didn't clear my history.
    • 2006, Todd Stauffer, Kirk McElhearn, Mastering Mac OS X, John Wiley & Sons, →ISBN, page 344:
      When you do that, the browser window has no browser history, so it doesn't report a referrer page to the first site you visit.
  8. (informal) Something that no longer exists or is no longer relevant.
    I told him that if he doesn't get his act together, he's history.
  9. (uncountable) Shared experience or interaction.
    There is too much history between them for them to split up now.
    He has had a lot of history with the police.

Usage notes[edit]

The chief polysemic ambiguity of the word history in natural language (in a nutshell, "the past" versus "that portion of the past for which written records exist") is handled with the help of a coordinate term pair (prehistory and history) or a qualifier (recorded history), yielding clarifying (disambiguating) phrases such as in all of human history and prehistory or in all recorded history.

Derived terms[edit]


  • Pitcairn-Norfolk: histrei


The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout § Translations.


history (third-person singular simple present histories, present participle historying, simple past and past participle historied)

  1. (obsolete) To narrate or record.


  1. ^ OED

Further reading[edit]


Middle English[edit]



  1. Alternative form of historie