Anecdote: Definition and Useful Examples of Anecdote in English

When looking at the English language, you will probably come across the concept of the anecdote, however, are you aware of the meaning of this concept? In this article, we are going to be taking a look at what the anecdote is as well as how it is used in conversation and written text. We are also going to be taking a look at a variety of examples as a way of gaining a greater understanding of the function of the anecdote.

Anecdote Definition

What Is An Anecdote?

An anecdote is simply a short story or tale which can talk about any subject the speaker or author wishes to deliver. The qualities of an anecdote are that it must be based on true events and people and is normally used as a way of entertaining the reader or listener and making them laugh. The anecdote might also get the listener to ponder over a certain subject. When telling an anecdote, it is normally done in relation to the wider topic which is being discussed. For example, if an anecdote is being told within the larger context of an essay on global warming, the anecdote would need to relate to global warming in some way.

An anecdote can also be told during a conversation. A good example of this would be if a group of friends were talking about children and one of the friends decided to tell a story about how her own child always falls asleep at the dinner table, this would be an anecdote.

In short, the anecdote can be any of the following:

  • A short story
  • An interesting tale
  • An event which is amusing
  • A story to demonstrate a point
  • A short description of an event designed to make the reader or listener laugh.

Anecdotes Examples

Now that we have a better understanding of what an anecdote is and what it is used for, we are ready to take a look at some detailed examples of how the anecdote is used in both spoken conversation as well as in a written context.

Anecdotes In Spoken Language

As we mentioned, the anecdote is often used during the day to day conversation, in fact, you have probably heard many anecdotes without even realising what they were. Here are some examples of spoken anecdotes.

  • When making a purchase in the supermarket, the cashier might compliment your choice of orange juice, this might lead you to tell them about why it is you buy that particular brand, the time when you accidentally brought it for your mom who has requested a much cheaper brand and so you kept it for yourself, only to realise how much you liked it. This would be an example of an anecdote.
  • In a wedding speech made by the best man, anecdotes are often featured. These are usually told about the groom or the bride, often surrounding before the met or how they met. These anecdotes are often used as a way to make the audience laugh and allow them to better connect with the couple.
  • If someone were to buy you a bunch of flowers you might say “Oh they’re beautiful and I love lilies, they remind me of my late grandmother who used to grow them. But she once went on holiday and left her lilies in the care of my sister, who forgot to water them and they all wilted. My grandmother was so upset but she soon saw the funny side when my sister brought her a plastic lily and said that it would never wilt.”
  • Quite often, spoken anecdotes are used in stand up comedy with the comedian discussing a particular subject and using a funny anecdote from their own lives to demonstrate the subject.

Anecdotes In Literature

Authors will often use an anecdote in their writing as a way of entertaining their audience or providing them with an interesting tale. There have been many examples of anecdotes being used in literature and we are going to be taking a look at some of these now.

  • In the poem called ‘death in the Arctic’ written by Robert Service, we see an example of an anecdote when the speaker is dying as he freezes in the Arctic, whilst this is happening he tells an anecdote. “Is it? Bells, the dogs again. Is this a dream? I cry and sob. Look! The door is opening, men clad in fur, they are rushing to my rescue, I am frail. Dying and feeble, glad and dazed. There’s the gun where it fell. “Boys, it’s hard but I am not angry, look at that clock, it has stopped, it has stopped. Carry me out. Heaven is smiling. Look! There is a golden arch above. Now just let me rest, looking at God and to love.
  • In Harry Potter and The Goblet Of Fire by J K Rowling, Dumbledore uses an anecdote when talking to another headmaster. “I’d never dream to assume that I know all of the secrets of Hogwarts. Just this morning, for example, I had taken a wrong turn on my way to the bathroom, I then found myself inside a wonderfully proportioned room which I had not seen before, it contained a truly astonishing collection of chamber pots. I then returned to investigate but discovered the room had disappeared.
  • In The Rocket from the Happy Prince and other tales written by Oscar Wilde, we see an example of an anecdote in the following extract. “I like to talk to myself, it’s one of the greatest pleasures in life. Quite often, I will have a long conversation by myself and I’m that clever that I do not understand a word that I am saying.


The anecdote is a short story which is designed to make the reader or listener laugh. It also serves to demonstrate a point and can come in the form of a short story or a description. The anecdote is a versatile idea which can be used in literature or within our day to day conversations.

Anecdote Infographic

Anecdote: Definition and Useful Examples of Anecdote in the English LanguagePin