Definition of documentary in English:



  • 1Consisting of or based on official documents.

    ‘documentary evidence of regular payments from the company’
    • ‘In fact, the documentary record is always depressingly full of fragments and gaps.’
    • ‘Both have continued in their claims to have Welsh antecedents despite further new documentary evidence to the contrary.’
    • ‘Your Honour, rare is the case that is tried where the documentary record is pristine and intact.’
    • ‘The question of credibility raises the issue of whether the documentary source is biased.’
    • ‘Surviving manuscripts have been preserved by chance, so there will always be lacunae in the documentary record.’
    • ‘This will serve as documentary evidence in case of any problems later.’
    • ‘Everything was drawn from primary research with living survivors and from documentary eyewitness accounts.’
    • ‘We had told Mr Blunkett's officials about our irrefutable documentary evidence before he wrote his article.’
    • ‘It's not a documentary analysis of how the far right organises itself.’
    • ‘So although this theory is often repeated, the documentary sources do not support it.’
    • ‘The discussion so far has been mainly based upon literary and documentary evidence.’
    • ‘Instead one has to go back to the language of the clause in its documentary and factual context and try to see what it means.’
    • ‘The downside of the online boom is the worry that historians will lose a documentary record.’
    • ‘Why is the earliest documentary evidence from 1964, when most people remember ska from earlier than that?’
    • ‘However, these customers would also have to provide documentary proof of their claims.’
    • ‘His published record was the first documentary evidence in Europe of the existence of the New World.’
    • ‘That was despite MI5 agents eventually providing documentary evidence to prove the men had been in Britain.’
    • ‘Most of our understanding of the Black Death has come from documentary sources.’
    • ‘These photos gave me a documentary record that I could draw upon later during the writing.’
    • ‘The tribunal also had regard to some 3,000 pages of documentary material provided by the parties.’
    recorded, documented, registered, written, chronicled, archived, archive, on record, in writing, on paper
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  • 2Using pictures or interviews with people involved in real events to provide a factual report on a particular subject.

    ‘a documentary programme about Manchester United’
    • ‘This in turn fuelled an interest in documentary photography and reportage.’
    • ‘Shot in documentary style throughout the day and night, the images are raw and real to illustrate the work behind the headlines.’
    • ‘The film follows the documentary filmmaker on her quest to probe the very soul of the modern politician.’
    • ‘He ran a laundry service with a friend, became a journalist and radio presenter and then a documentary filmmaker.’
    • ‘This documentary film provides a unique insight into the life of Collins.’
    • ‘Scotland has a long history of producing one-off history and documentary programmes.’
    • ‘The success of the documentary style fooled many into forgetting that they were watching works of fiction.’
    • ‘The documentary tradition has long been engaged with the real world, often explicitly in order to change it.’
    • ‘The film is a mixture of real documentary footage and recreation.’
    • ‘However, I must say that my favourite discoveries were in the short and documentary sections.’
    • ‘Each year, the trust acknowledges the best documentary film-making from Britain and abroad.’
    • ‘He belonged to the generation of broadcasters who saw documentary reporting as the highest possible calling.’
    • ‘There is also a four minute documentary featurette on the making of the music video.’
    • ‘Regular items included comic interviews with people in the street and a mock documentary slot.’
    • ‘She made her case to her editors, who agreed to provide a forum for her documentary work.’
    • ‘The ground-breaking documentary series takes viewers to Planet Earth millions of years into the future.’
    • ‘They are the subject of a new fly-on-the-wall documentary series, starting tonight.’
    • ‘I'm glad the film ended up as a documentary type film with interviews intercut with reconstructions of the fateful climb.’
    • ‘Loach also commented that the use of documentary elements reflected the programme's scheduling.’
    • ‘On the last day, the subjects went to a law school where they saw a documentary re-enactment of a real rape trial.’
    factual, non-fictional, real-life, true to life, fact-based
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  • A film or television or radio programme that provides a factual report on a particular subject.

    • ‘She also had a subsequent solo career, and then moved into television to make documentaries.’
    • ‘Sadly we don't get such shows here… now its all war related specials and documentaries.’
    • ‘Is it the role of television documentaries to change government policy?’
    • ‘Reporters sought her out for interviews and several documentaries were filmed.’
    • ‘Television documentaries have used interviews with academics in two ways.’
    • ‘There are many books, films and documentaries on the subject of widows in India.’
    • ‘Over the past decade we have seen a number of documentaries on Chaplin's film art.’
    • ‘I spend Friday night at home in front of the television, watching bad documentaries.’
    • ‘I've lost count of how many special election reports and documentaries there have been.’
    • ‘They want a balanced diet of variety, costume dramas and documentaries.’
    • ‘The channel would show war documentaries, military reports and a variety of films.’
    • ‘The programme features five documentaries shot in the immediate wake of the terrorist attacks.’
    • ‘Equally, cinema documentaries may have to be edited down for television.’
    • ‘What do you think it is that sets your films apart from other documentaries that don't manage to make money?’
    • ‘The inspiration for the film came from two documentaries he watched on Korean TV.’
    • ‘In the last month he has been the subject of two television documentaries.’
    • ‘He has written and directed scores of films and television series and documentaries.’
    • ‘It has been acknowledged as one of the most widely watched television documentaries of all time.’
    • ‘His exploits are to be screened on two television documentaries about the sport.’
    • ‘My main point is that we are not all as we are portrayed in numerous documentaries and programmes.’
    factual programme, factual film
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Early 19th century: from document + -ary.