Posted: 22 Feb 2014 08:47 PM PST
The historian Procopius of Caesarea lived during the reign of the Roman emperor Justinian (482-565). His history of the wars of Justinian was published during his lifetime, but another of his works, now referred to as The Secret History, remained unpublished until the manuscript was discovered in the Vatican Library and published in 1623.
Although unpublished for centuries, the existence of The Secret History was known earlier, because it is mentioned in a 10th century encyclopedia called the Suda; there, the work is referred to by the Greek word Anekdota, which in Latin is Anecdota, “unpublished writings.” A very good reason that the work was not published in the time of Justinian is the fact that it contains extremely unflattering stories about the private lives of the emperor and his wife.
The earliest meaning of anecdote in English is “Secret, private, or hitherto unpublished narratives or details of history.” Later, the word came to have its present meaning: “The narrative of a detached incident, or of a single event, told as being in itself interesting or striking.”
The adjective anecdotal dates from the 18th century. It can mean simply “pertaining to anecdotes,” but in modern usage it is often used in the sense of “unreliable.”
The legal term hearsay refers to “anecdotal evidence/testimony”:
Examples of the use of anecdotal and anecdotally: