Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Anachronism

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is anachronism. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

An anachronism is an error in which something in a movie, story, etc., is placed in a time where it does not belong. Anachronism can also refer to a person or a thing that seems to belong to the past and to not fit in the present.

// A number of the film’s critics complained about the multiple anachronisms in the historical drama.

// He’s an old-fashioned politician who is seen by many of his colleagues as an anachronism.


“[The video game] Pentiment follows Andreas Maler, an artist who arrives at a small Bavarian town to assist a monastery in producing its illuminated manuscripts. The monastery’s scriptorium is already an anachronism, because the recent invention of the printing press has started to allow almost anyone to mass-disseminate information, loosening the church’s grip on the written word and reducing the demand for meticulously hand-drawn manuscripts.” — Matt James, The Ringer, 16 Dec. 2022

Did You Know?

An anachronism is an error of chronology in which something, such as an object or event, is placed in the wrong time. Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar includes a famous anachronism, with Cassius alluding to a mechanical clock (“The clock hath stricken three”) in a play whose events take place more than a thousand years before mechanical clocks were invented. Anachronism has its roots in Greek chronos, “time,” and ana-, a Greek prefix meaning “up,” “back,” or “again.” Anachronisms historically were sometimes distinguished from parachronisms, chronology errors in which an event is placed later than it occurred. Both anachronism and parachronism (and also the latter’s now-obsolete synonym metachronism) date to the 17th century, but only anachronism has stood the test of time.

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.

Leave a Reply