toid) KEY NOUN:
OTHER FORMS:fac·toidal(Adjective)Usage Note:
- 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: "What one misses finally is what might have emerged beyond both facts and factoidsa profound definition of the Marilyn Monroe phenomenon" (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt).
- Usage Problem A brief, somewhat interesting fact.
suffix normally imparts the meaning "resembling, having the appearance of" to the words it attaches to. Thus the anthropoid apes
are the apes that are most like humans (from Greek anthrpos,
"human being"). In some words -oid
has a slightly extended meaning
"having characteristics of, but not the same as," as in humanoid,
a being that has human characteristics but is not really human. Similarly, factoid
originally referred to a piece of information that appears to be reliable or accurate, as from being repeated so often that people assume it is true. The word still has this meaning in standard usage. Seventy-three percent of the Usage Panel accepts it in the sentence It would be easy to condemn the book as a concession to the television age, as a McLuhanish melange of pictures and factoids which give the illusion of learning without the substance.
has since developed a second meaning, that of a brief, somewhat interesting fact, that might better have been called a factette.
The Panelists have less enthusiasm for this usage, however, perhaps because they believe it to be confusing. Only 43 percent of the panel accepts it in Each issue of the magazine begins with a list of factoids, like how many pounds of hamburger were consumed in Texas last month.
Many Panelists prefer terms such as statistics, trivia, useless facts,
and just plain facts
in this sentence.