The word anecdote, essentially defined as "a funny little story you tell to break that awkward silence", has fascinating origins and a surprising change of definition. The farthest back it can be traced is to Proto-Indo-European do, or "to give". This roughly transitioned into Ancient Greek as didonai, still meaning "to give". In a conjugated form this could be written as dotos. The Greeks then tacked on two more things, their word ek, meaning "out", and the prefix an-, meaning "not". And so the word anekdotos was created, literally meaning "not give out" but taking on a definition in literary terms, "not publishing" a book or work. This later passed into French, with Medieval Latin influences, as anecdote, "a collection of secret or private stories," a momentous change in the word's history, though the transition is understandable. Later, as the word became English, anecdote was still a private story, but no longer secret.
Adam Aleksic is a 220-month-old, 2800-ounce high school senior with disturbing interests in etymology, vexillology, geography, board games, limericks, and law. Adam will be studying linguistics at Harvard University in the fall.
The Etymology Nerd