Definition of history in English:



  • 1[mass noun] The study of past events, particularly in human affairs:

    ‘medieval European history’
    • ‘At this point she started to study constitutional history and law.’
    • ‘To study history means submitting to chaos and nevertheless retaining faith in order and meaning.’
    • ‘Ayn Rand said she studied history to learn how we got here, and philosophy so we'd know where to go.’
    • ‘I came to York last June to visit my girlfriend, who achieved a 3rd year in history studies there.’
    • ‘In this role, he has dedicated himself to the study of history more than to theology as such.’
    • ‘An honest answer is that we do not know; that is why we do history and study current events.’
    • ‘He studied history at Edinburgh University and worked as a teacher before joining the city's Gateway Theatre.’
    • ‘His downfall begins when he develops a feud with the charismatic history teacher, Mr Eccles.’
    • ‘Born in Lisbon, he studied history, philosophy, and jurisprudence at the University of Lisbon.’
    • ‘At school, my history teacher always used to say that the reason for studying the past was so that you could help shape a better future.’
    • ‘There are other groups of Japanese and South Korean experts engaged in joint history studies.’
    • ‘Socialists attempt to study history in order to intervene in our own society and change it for the better.’
    • ‘He went to school in Wolverhampton and studied history and modern languages at Queens' College Cambridge.’
    • ‘He was born in Danzig and studied philosophy and history of art in Berlin.’
    • ‘Thus begins Don Quixote, arguably the greatest single work of literature in human history.’
    • ‘At 23, he is on the verge of completing a degree in history, politics and social studies.’
    • ‘Gopal took to biographical studies within the parameters of political and social history.’
    • ‘Did anyone ever apply evolutionary niche theory to human history, marrying Great Men to social forces?’
    • ‘The director needs to study social life and history more profoundly and change his course.’
    • ‘Upon further inquiries, I was told that humanities combines the study of geography and history.’
    the past, former times, historical events, days of old, the old days, the good old days, time gone by, bygone days, yesterday, antiquity
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    1. 1.1 The past considered as a whole:
      ‘letters that have changed the course of history’
      • ‘From the dawn of human history, there have been laws about the initiation and conduct of war.’
      • ‘Wouldn't it be great if history as a whole could selectively forget its blemishes?’
      • ‘The great irony of this whole situation is that history is repeating itself in a big way.’
      • ‘The idea is that history continues: a whole section is devoted to high-tech things happening today.’
      • ‘Witness the devastation from one of the most destructive events in human history.’
      • ‘We think running is one of the most transforming events in human history.’
      • ‘She said that it was to be a project about different historical events in history.’
      • ‘It has been a major influence in many great works of literature, art and music and it may have altered the course of history.’
      • ‘The same view of history and the human future was reproduced in modern radical ideologies.’
      • ‘During the 1990s the growth of social inequality was unprecedented in human history.’
      • ‘But a historian who lies about history betrays his whole reason for professional existence.’
      • ‘This has to be the most tragic thing to have happened on this date in the whole of history.’
      • ‘The great literary cultures of human history were not afraid to take their themes from the past.’
      • ‘Harper tried to rewrite or ignore history this whole campaign, and I must admit he did a pretty fine job.’
      • ‘For most of human history defence spending has been the biggest item in government budgets.’
      • ‘It is against this particular background that the modern notion of human history must be viewed.’
      • ‘There are moments in history when the whole fate and future of nations can be decided by a single decision.’
      • ‘The sociologist Michael Mann took a detour from his epic study of power in human history.’
      • ‘For most of human history, war has been a distant event for people other than the countries engaged in conflict.’
      • ‘The very idea that there is a whole side of history that has not been told is vital.’
      background, past, family background, life story, antecedents
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  • 2The whole series of past events connected with a particular person or thing:

    ‘the history of the Empire’
    ‘a patient with a complicated medical history’
    • ‘The background to this whole debate is the history of colonial and apartheid era land dispossession.’
    • ‘The second part deals with wars and international affairs whilst the third deals with economic and social history.’
    • ‘The series explores the history of evil, what society means by the word evil, where it comes from and what society can do to deal with it.’
    • ‘This is the second time in the history of the series that the race has gone caution free.’
    • ‘They blame Liverpool fans for destroying a whole era in football history and for ending the dominance of English clubs.’
    • ‘It was a remarkable event in modern political history and a first for a Chinese society.’
    • ‘By turning your head, you seemed to take in the whole sweep of Irish history, from the Vikings to the plantation.’
    • ‘This is the system which has been in place for the whole of motion picture history.’
    • ‘And of course the whole history of the Caribbean is really marked by the slave experience.’
    • ‘The whole trend of British history since her accession has been comparatively downbeat.’
    • ‘Plus, she changed the course of American history by refusing to give up her seat.’
    • ‘In the whole of Tasmanian history, only one trooper was ever killed by Aborigines.’
    • ‘The series about the history of speed and the intense rivalry to be the fastest revisits the golden age of the train.’
    • ‘Many terrible things have taken place during the course of European history of which none of today's descendants can be proud.’
    • ‘Not the least remarkable fact about this whole episode in British history is how the memory of it has been so successfully erased.’
    • ‘In 1984 the Miners Strike, one of the most divisive events in modern British history, took place.’
    • ‘Ryman herself now teaches courses based upon dance history, appreciation and dance notation.’
    • ‘This new three-part series charts the history of magic in Britain.’
    • ‘It has been the most ill fated weekend of the whole Formula One racing history.’
    • ‘Mash, which became one of the most famous series in the history of television, was originally a novel.’
    1. 2.1 An eventful past:
      ‘the group has quite a history’
      • ‘As members will be quite aware, there is quite a history in this House with regard to the scampi debacle, if one likes.’
      • ‘You may not be aware that Ueno has quite a history dating back to the early years of the Edo Period when it was just a little swampland.’
      • ‘The Swan, which has been shut since August last year, has had an eventful recent history.’
      • ‘China's leaders are surrounded by reminders of their nation's long and eventful history.’
      • ‘Cllr Mary Kelly said the Town Council offices at Market Square had quite an amazing history.’
      • ‘There's quite a history of it, and in fact it's been a public issue before.’
      • ‘There aren't many firms that can claim quite such an illustrious history.’
      • ‘It is worth mentioning this last result in more detail for he worked on a problem which had quite a famous history.’
    2. 2.2 A past characterized by a particular thing:
      ‘his family had a history of insanity’
      • ‘We also suspect there is a genetic contribution, from a family history of the disease.’
      • ‘At first it was thought he might be suffering from tuberculosis because there was a family history of the disease.’
      • ‘Pat, a father of six from Westport Co Mayo, came from a family with a history of heart problems.’
      • ‘My family has a history of cholesterol problems, and my GP has warned me to watch my cholesterol levels.’
      • ‘The doctor also stressed the need for cancer screening by people whose family has a history of cancer.’
      • ‘Another group of people who are at a higher risk are those with family histories of aneurysms.’
      • ‘Men who have a family history of prostate cancer are at higher risk and are more likely to be in the few whose lives are saved.’
      • ‘Mesereau said he was the victim of a trap set by a family with a history of milking celebrities.’
      • ‘They say the health implications can be particularly serious if there is a family history of high blood pressure.’
      • ‘One clinic has already been given the right to use sex selection to prevent autism in families with a history of the condition.’
      • ‘Perhaps he was just losing his marbles; there was a history of insanity in his family.’
      • ‘A family history of heart disease is more common in women with coronary disease than men.’
      • ‘I see lots of patients who have family histories of early heart disease, like she does.’
      • ‘People at risk of diabetes included those with a family history of the condition and people who are overweight.’
      • ‘They are more common in females and are associated with a history of chronic cystitis.’
      • ‘Some cases have a family history of melanoma, suggesting a genetic contribution.’
      • ‘An easier way maybe would be to focus on screening people who have a family history of heart disease.’
      • ‘By way of contrast, Guillermo Kuitca draws on a family history of displacement and diaspora.’
  • 3A continuous, typically chronological, record of important or public events or of a particular trend or institution:

    ‘a history of the labour movement’
    • ‘In fact the prosecution was dropped; it was a landmark decision in the history of public gambling.’
    • ‘This was the most important week in the history of the new Conservative Party which she helped create.’
    • ‘The agreement brought to an end the longest recorded session in the history of the Upper House.’
    • ‘It was arguably the most important game in the history of Woman's hockey at this school.’
    • ‘You can probably find the detail if you look up the history of their public announcements.’
    • ‘It is the highest recorded circulation in the history of the newspaper.’
    • ‘I think it may be the most important election in the history of the Second Amendment.’
    • ‘The most illustrious record labels in the history of jazz have caught on to the fact that in the long run they are better off sticking together.’
    • ‘They saw the history of the two institutions as intertwined with that of the U.S.’
    • ‘She should be a bit more familiar with the history of the institution in which she works.’
    • ‘Since the eclipse of the Commons' school of labor historiography in the 1960's, institutional histories of labor unions have become relatively rare.’
    • ‘The implications of that are hugely important in the history of religion.’
    • ‘It was a historic day for the army but also an important day in the history of Irish military service.’
    • ‘Never in the history of public welfare has so much been coordinated by so many for so few who spot the difference.’
    • ‘This afternoon in Indianapolis is, by common consent, one of the most important in the history of Formula One.’
    • ‘Local lighthouse enthusiasts could give public accounts of the history and future of their local light.’
    • ‘It's important to recount the history of that story and the lessons Howard learned.’
    chronicle, archive, record, report, narrative, story, account, study, tale, saga
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    1. 3.1 A historical play:
      ‘Shakespeare's comedies, histories, and tragedies’
      • ‘Did they assume that they were biographies, or histories, or travel tales, or religious propaganda?’
      • ‘In high school, teachers spend a great deal of time guiding students through the rigors of Shakespeare's tragedies and histories, but what about the comedies?’
      • ‘The prolific writer is known both for his military histories and his thrillers, and his pseudonyms include Leo Kessler.’
      • ‘Any history of the Third Reich is a terrible morality play, a tragic lesson in how not to think or act.’
      • ‘The plays fall into the categories of history, tragedy, comedy and tragicomedy.’
      • ‘Most people think that William Shakespeare, who died in 1616, wrote three kinds of plays: comedies, tragedies and histories.’
      • ‘And you can see the influence of Shakespeare's histories in the emphasis on grieving fathers and sons, and the cyclical nature of violence.’
      • ‘The plays are printed roughly in the Folio order, comedies first, followed by histories, tragedies, and the late romances.’
      • ‘Altogether, these intermittently humorous but basically grim histories are transmogrified into much too pervasive farce.’
      • ‘Now, the Classical histories, the English histories of Shakespeare, are based on actual history.’
      • ‘In youth he also read with deep admiration Sallust's sombre histories of the Roman Republic and the comedies of Terence.’
      • ‘As a Saxon Benedictine, Hrotsvit wrote lives of saints, epic Ottonian histories, and brief dramas of Christian martyrs and heroines.’


  • be history

    • 1Be perceived as no longer relevant to the present:

      ‘the mainframe is already history’
      • ‘Ah well, if it's the photo at the top of yesterday's post you're thinking of, that beard was history as soon as the filming was done.’
      • ‘The Cold War was over, colonialism was history, an era of global peace and prosperity seemed imminent.’
      • ‘Parliamentary democracy was a great adventure, but it may soon be history.’
      • ‘Plain vanilla, chocolate and raspberry ripple will soon be history.’
      • ‘Soon enough, your office outbursts will be history, and you'll be closer to your ideal performance state.’
      • ‘Smoking by staff and inmates at the Baffin Correctional Centre will soon be history.’
      • ‘By 1905, Oldsmobile was the largest car manufacturer in the world, but soon it will be history.’
      • ‘What Amato is talking about is history as far as the department is concerned.’
      • ‘In the early 90s everyone thought IBM was completely over: mainframes were history!’
      • ‘The lost year is history and not relevant for future calculations of whether hard bargaining will pay off.’
      1. 1.1informal Used to indicate imminent departure, dismissal, or death:
        ‘an inch either way and you'd be history’
        • ‘Once we were history he retreated into his fantasy world in one of the most bizarre ways I've ever seen.’
        • ‘Sorry we missed it, but a fellow at the next table assured us that Waite would soon be history.’
        • ‘I held the eviction threats that said Saturday's Grave had better pay up soon, or we would be history.’
        • ‘Lawson resigned in disgust, and a year later Thatcher was history too.’
        • ‘By the third issue, the original editor, publisher and a number of other key personnel were history.’
        • ‘Unless Jacob tops Kevin in the kissing department, he should be history by tomorrow.’
        • ‘If Brown doesn't step it up soon, he'll be history.’
        • ‘Mr. Deendayal Dilkush, that unhealthy, lethargic man of mundane existence would soon be history.’
        • ‘Rope Coiler-in-Chief was history, as was Crow's Nest Lad, Cook and Bin-Bag Wanger.’
        • ‘Last week he was history, with the board of the quango deciding it was time for a change.’
  • go down in history

    • Be remembered or recorded in history:

      ‘the 1981 Grand National has gone down in history as one of the most emotional races ever run’
      • ‘He has gone down in history as a legendary guitarist and inspiration for Cockney rhyming slang for starving.’
      • ‘The sale also went down in history as concluding the process of privatisation of Bulgaria's banks.’
      • ‘By this stage that game has gone down in history (quite rightly in my view) as one of the greatest Munster Finals ever played.’
      • ‘Of all these bombed cities and villages, only Guernica went down in history.’
      • ‘He might have gone down in history as a good president.’
      • ‘She had set tons of records and went down in history.’
      • ‘It will go down in history and our children's children will remember these departed colleagues of ours.’
      • ‘‘My name has gone down in history,’ he says to no one in particular.’
      • ‘Many players go down in history because they're successful but few are remembered for their magic.’
      • ‘Just look at Christmas 2002, which went down in history as the year without a ‘must have’ toy.’
  • make history

    • Do something that is remembered in or influences the course of history:

      ‘the track where he made history thirty-five years ago’
      • ‘They came here, claiming to try to make history, but evidently making history implies not losing the series rather than winning.’
      • ‘This is the first time our sport is making history.’
      • ‘And I think that does a disservice because people who participate in making history don't think of themselves as making history.’
      • ‘Some would argue that historians are not supposed to make history, that they should confine themselves to writing it.’
      • ‘It is a vision which will transform York from a city which lives history - to one which makes history.’
      • ‘It might be another historic night and let's make history by trying to do what's almost impossible.’
      • ‘I found without doubt some of the most powerful women in history making history at the times when Venus crossed the Sun.’
      • ‘Let's value the lessons of world history as we continue to make history.’
      • ‘A president who makes history is of interest mostly to historians.’
      • ‘Every day remember that, then organise, not just to make history but to change its course.’
  • the rest is history

    • Used to indicate that the events succeeding those already related are so well known that they need not be recounted again:

      ‘they teamed up, discovered that they could make music, and the rest is history’
      • ‘Tom took up the challenge and the rest is history.’
      • ‘As it turned out, Jobs introduced the iMac, and the rest is history.’
      • ‘He found a place in Upland Rd, Remuera and the rest is history.’
      • ‘They went to the streets, they celebrated and the rest is history.’
      • ‘She began her career 13 years ago after drinking a couple of wine coolers, and the rest is history, she said with a giggle.’
      • ‘The sparks flew immediately, and the rest, well, as they say, the rest is history.’
      • ‘Undaunted by the male-dominated music society of her times, she took the music world by storm - and the rest is history.’
      • ‘That was seized upon as a good smear and the rest is history.’
      • ‘The books sold ridiculously well, and the rest is history.’
      • ‘The Lottery gave over £500,000 and the rest is history.’


Late Middle English (also as a verb): via Latin from Greek historia finding out, narrative, history, from histōr learned, wise man, from an Indo-European root shared by wit.