Quora – What is the real meaning and usage of the word “factoid”?

Original question: What is the real meaning and usage of the word “factoid”?

A “factoid” is a statement or something similar concerning unreliable information that has become repeated so often that it is thought to be a fact by the general public. The “-oid” ending means “like”, “similar to” or “resembling”, so a factoid is “something that resembles a fact”. Often factoids come from a media source, such as a newspaper or magazine, which is then spread to other media sources or via conversation until it is generally believed by the public to be true. This often leads to circular reporting, where other news sources quote the original source of the factoid. When the original source is questioned later, they then use one of the other news sources as their source, creating the circle.

In some places the word “factoid” can also be used to mean a piece of trivia or a small bit of information that is interesting but ultimately irrelevant. For example, the information presented on a game show in North America (e.g. Jeopardy) could be considered “factoids”. This usage of the word is more common in North America.

The word was created initially in 1973 by author Norman Mailer in his biography of Marylin Munroe, referring to bits of information published in newspapers and magazines that had no basis in fact.

An example: “I heard a fact yesterday that elephants are actually just hippos in disguise but it turned out to be a factoid.”

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