anecdote (ănˈĭkdōtˌ) [key], brief narrative of a particular incident. An anecdote differs from a short story in that it is unified in time and space, is uncomplicated, and deals with a single episode. The literal Greek meaning of the word is "not published," and it still retains some such sense of confidentiality. Sometimes an anecdote is inserted into a novel as an interval in the main plot, as in Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy. Famous books of anecdotes include the Deipnosophistae of Athenaeus and Plutarch's Lives.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.