1. A piece of unverified or inaccurate information that is presented in the press as factual, often as part of a publicity effort, and that is then accepted as true because of frequent repetition.
2. A brief, somewhat interesting fact.
Usage Note: The suffix -oid normally means "resembling, having the appearance of." Thus, factoid originally referred to a claim that appears reliable or accurate, often because it has been repeated so frequently that people assume it is true. The word still has this meaning for many writers and readers; in our 2013 survey, 59 percent of the Usage Panel accepted it in the sentence The editorial writer relied on numerous factoids that have long been discredited. But factoid is also often used to mean a brief, somewhat interesting fact, and this sense has become common in recent decades. Some 64 percent of the Panel accepted this usage in the sentence Each issue of the magazine begins with a list of factoids, like how many pounds of hamburger were consumed in Texas last month. As the ballot results indicate, neither usage is overwhelmingly approved. If you use the word factoid, be sure the sentence makes it clear whether you are referring to a spurious claim, on the one hand, or an isolated, trivial, or mildly intriguing fact, on the other.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2014 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
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