What Does the Word "history" Mean?

According to Merriam Webster, the primary definition of the word "history" is "the study of past events." The word has other definitions, depending on how it is used in a sentence. A secondary definition for history is "a chronological record of significant events often including an explanation of their causes."

The word history, when used in reference to the study of events that took place in the past, is often used to describe a course in school or a genre of a book. For instance, in high school many students take a course in United States history or European history, or people may read history books about past events.

The word history also refers to the background or information leading up to a certain situation or instance. For example, a person might say he cannot answer a question about a child's suspension from school because he does not know the history of what happened in the past. In this instance, Merriam Webster defines history as "previous treatment, handling or experience."

The word history is also used when referring to the medical background of a patient in the health-care industry. For example, patients are often requested to provide a detailed medical history before visiting a physician's office for the first time. In another instance, the word history refers to things that are now over or done with, such as when a commentator says an athlete is history because he has not won a significant title in years.