An anachronism—from the Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 ανά (ana: up, against, back, re-) and χρόνος (chronos: time)— (ism act state and condition) is an inconsistency in some chronological arrangement
Chronology is the science of arranging events in their order of occurrence in time, such as the use of a timeline or sequence of events. It is also "the determination of the actual temporal sequence of past events".Chronology is part of periodization...

, especially a chronological misplacing of persons, events, objects, or customs in regard to each other. The item is often an object, but may be a verbal expression, a technology, a philosophical idea, a musical style, a material, a custom, or anything else so closely associated with a particular period in time that it would be incorrect to place it outside its proper domain.


The intentional use of older, often obsolete cultural artifacts may be regarded as anachronistic. For example, it could be considered anachronistic for a modern-day person to wear a top-hat, write with a quill
A quill pen is a writing implement made from a flight feather of a large bird. Quills were used for writing with ink before the invention of the dip pen, metal-nibbed pens, the fountain pen, and, eventually, the ballpoint pen...

, or use a typewriter
A typewriter is a mechanical or electromechanical device with keys that, when pressed, cause characters to be printed on a medium, usually paper. Typically one character is printed per keypress, and the machine prints the characters by making ink impressions of type elements similar to the pieces...

. Such choices may reflect an eccentricity
Eccentricity (behavior)
In popular usage, eccentricity refers to unusual or odd behavior on the part of an individual. This behavior would typically be perceived as unusual or unnecessary, without being demonstrably maladaptive...

, or an aesthetic preference.

Another sort of parachronism
A parachronism is anything that appears in a temporal context in which, though not sufficiently out of place as to be impossible, it is not normally found...

 arises when a work based on a particular era's state of knowledge is read within the context of a later era with a different state of knowledge. Many scientific works that rely on theories that have later been discredited have become anachronistic with the removal of those underpinnings, and works of speculative fiction
Speculative fiction
Speculative fiction is an umbrella term encompassing the more fantastical fiction genres, specifically science fiction, fantasy, horror, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history in literature as well as...

 often find their speculation outstripped by real-world technological development.

A prochronism, on the other hand, occurs when an item appears in a temporal context in which it could not yet be present (the object had not yet been developed, the verbal expression had not been coined, the philosophy had not been formulated, the breed of animal had not been developed, the technology had not been created). An example might be Western
Western (genre)
The Western is a genre of various visual arts, such as film, television, radio, literature, painting and others. Westerns are devoted to telling stories set primarily in the latter half of the 19th century in the American Old West, hence the name. Some Westerns are set as early as the Battle of...

 movies' placing of firearms not introduced until the 1870s, such as the Winchester 1873 rifle
Winchester rifle
In common usage, Winchester rifle usually means any of the lever-action rifles manufactured by the Winchester Repeating Arms Company, though the company has also manufactured many rifles of other action types...

 or the Colt Single Action Army revolver, into frontier society of antebellum or Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 years. While prochronisms such as this may not be noticeable to the uninformed, other prochronisms are frankly comic in their effect (e.g., a 10th-century British peasant earnestly explaining his village as an "anarcho-syndicalist commune
Commune (intentional community)
A commune is an intentional community of people living together, sharing common interests, property, possessions, resources, and, in some communes, work and income. In addition to the communal economy, consensus decision-making, non-hierarchical structures and ecological living have become...

" in the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Monty Python and the Holy Grail is a 1974 British comedy film written and performed by the comedy group Monty Python , and directed by Gilliam and Jones...

, or a Beatlesque band called the "Bedbugs" appearing in the American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

–era TV comedy F-Troop).


An anachronism can be an artifact
Artifact (archaeology)
An artifact or artefact is "something made or given shape by man, such as a tool or a work of art, esp an object of archaeological interest"...

 which appears out of place archaeologically
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

, geologically
Geology is the science comprising the study of solid Earth, the rocks of which it is composed, and the processes by which it evolves. Geology gives insight into the history of the Earth, as it provides the primary evidence for plate tectonics, the evolutionary history of life, and past climates...

, or temporally
Time is a part of the measuring system used to sequence events, to compare the durations of events and the intervals between them, and to quantify rates of change such as the motions of objects....

. It is sometimes called OOPArt, for "out-of-place artifact". Anachronisms usually appear more technologically advanced than is expected for their place and period.

However, a seeming anachronism may reflect ignorance of history rather than a genuine chronological anomaly
Chronology is the science of arranging events in their order of occurrence in time, such as the use of a timeline or sequence of events. It is also "the determination of the actual temporal sequence of past events".Chronology is part of periodization...

. A popular view of history presents an unfolding of the past in which humanity has a primitive start and progresses toward development of technology. Allegedly anachronistic artifacts demonstrate contradictions to this idea. Some archaeologists believe that seeing these artifacts as anachronisms underestimates the technology and creativity of people at the time.

Art and fiction

Anachronism is used especially in works of imagination that rest on a historical basis. Anachronisms may be introduced in many ways, originating, for instance, in disregard of the different modes of life and thought that characterize different periods, or in ignorance of the progress of the arts and sciences and other facts of history. They vary from glaring inconsistencies to scarcely perceptible misrepresentation. It is only since the close of the 18th century that this kind of deviation from historical reality has jarred on a general audience. Anachronisms abound in the works of Raphael and Shakespeare
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

, as well as in those of less celebrated painters and playwrights of earlier times.
In particular, the artists, on the stage and on the canvas, in story and in song, assimilated their characters to their own nationality and their own time. Roman soldiers appear in Renaissance military garb. The Virgin Mary was represented in Italian works with Italian characteristics, and in Flemish
Flanders is the community of the Flemings but also one of the institutions in Belgium, and a geographical region located in parts of present-day Belgium, France and the Netherlands. "Flanders" can also refer to the northern part of Belgium that contains Brussels, Bruges, Ghent and Antwerp...

 works with Flemish ones. Alexander the Great appeared on the French stage in the full costume of Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV of France
Louis XIV , known as Louis the Great or the Sun King , was a Bourbon monarch who ruled as King of France and Navarre. His reign, from 1643 to his death in 1715, began at the age of four and lasted seventy-two years, three months, and eighteen days...

 down to the time of Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

; and in England the contemporaries of Joseph Addison
Joseph Addison
Joseph Addison was an English essayist, poet, playwright and politician. He was a man of letters, eldest son of Lancelot Addison...

 found unremarkable (in Pope's
Alexander Pope
Alexander Pope was an 18th-century English poet, best known for his satirical verse and for his translation of Homer. He is the third-most frequently quoted writer in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, after Shakespeare and Tennyson...

Cato the Younger
Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis , commonly known as Cato the Younger to distinguish him from his great-grandfather , was a politician and statesman in the late Roman Republic, and a follower of the Stoic philosophy...

 long wig, flower'd gown, and lacquer'd chair."

Shakespeare's audience similarly did not ask whether the University of Wittenberg had existed in Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

's day, or whether clocks that struck time
Striking clock
A striking clock is a clock that sounds the hours audibly on a bell or gong. In 12 hour striking, used most commonly in striking clocks today, the clock strikes once at 1 AM, twice at 2 AM, continuing in this way up to twelve times at 12 noon, then starts over, striking once at 1 PM, twice at 2...

 were available in Julius Caesar
Julius Caesar (play)
The Tragedy of Julius Caesar, also known simply as Julius Caesar, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1599. It portrays the 44 BC conspiracy against...

's ancient Rome. The anachronism arises from Shakespeare's temporal conflict of fact; portraying Brutus' plotting to assassinate Caesar
Julius Caesar
Gaius Julius Caesar was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire....

, in 44 BC, being interrupted by the striking of the clock, which could not possibly occur since ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 remained the era of the sundial
A sundial is a device that measures time by the position of the Sun. In common designs such as the horizontal sundial, the sun casts a shadow from its style onto a surface marked with lines indicating the hours of the day. The style is the time-telling edge of the gnomon, often a thin rod or a...

, with invention of the mechanical clock
A clock is an instrument used to indicate, keep, and co-ordinate time. The word clock is derived ultimately from the Celtic words clagan and clocca meaning "bell". A silent instrument missing such a mechanism has traditionally been known as a timepiece...

 dating to the 11th-13th century AD.

Similarly, Henry Purcell
Henry Purcell
Henry Purcell – 21 November 1695), was an English organist and Baroque composer of secular and sacred music. Although Purcell incorporated Italian and French stylistic elements into his compositions, his legacy was a uniquely English form of Baroque music...

 wrote the opera "Dido and Aeneas
Dido and Aeneas
Dido and Aeneas is an opera in a prologue and three acts by the English Baroque composer Henry Purcell to a libretto by Nahum Tate. The first known performance was at Josias Priest's girls' school in London no later than the summer of 1688. The story is based on Book IV of Virgil's Aeneid...

", which is based on themes from Classical Antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

 and taking place in the immediate aftermath of the Trojan War
Trojan War
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta. The war is among the most important events in Greek mythology and was narrated in many works of Greek literature, including the Iliad...

; yet, he provided Dido, Queen of Carthago, with a sister called "Belinda
The name Belinda is a common female first name of unknown etymology. It may have been coined from Italian bella "beautiful". Some scholars have speculated that Belinda derives from the Germanic given name Betlindis, or possibly a contracted form of Old High German Betlinde, meaning "bright serpent"...

" - a feminine first name which is probably of Germanic origin and which certainly did not exist before the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...


However, in many works, such anachronisms are not simply the result of ignorance, which would have been corrected had the artist simply had more historical knowledge. Renaissance painters
Early Renaissance painting
Renaissance art is the painting, sculpture and decorative arts of that period of European history known as the Renaissance, emerging as a distinct style in Italy in about 1400, in parallel with developments which occurred in philosophy, literature, music and science...

, for example, were well aware of the differences in costume between ancient times and their own, given the renewed attention to ancient art in their time, but they often chose to depict ancient scenes in contemporary garb. Rather, these anachronisms reflect a difference of emphasis from the 19th and 20th century attention to depicting details of former times as they "actually" were. Artists and writers of earlier times were usually more concerned with other aspects of the composition, and the fact that the events depicted took place long in the past was secondary. Such a large number of differences of detail required by historic realism would have been a distraction. (see Accidental and intentional anachronism below)

Authors sometimes telescope chronology
Chronology is the science of arranging events in their order of occurrence in time, such as the use of a timeline or sequence of events. It is also "the determination of the actual temporal sequence of past events".Chronology is part of periodization...

 for the sake of making a point. Bolesław Prus does this at several junctures in his 1895 historical novel
Historical novel
According to Encyclopædia Britannica, a historical novel is-Development:An early example of historical prose fiction is Luó Guànzhōng's 14th century Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which covers one of the most important periods of Chinese history and left a lasting impact on Chinese culture.The...

, Pharaoh
Pharaoh (novel)
Pharaoh is the fourth and last major novel by the Polish writer Bolesław Prus . Composed over a year's time in 1894–95, it was the sole historical novel by an author who had earlier disapproved of historical novels on the ground that they inevitably distort history.Pharaoh has been described...

, set in the Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

 of 1087–1085 BCE. The ancient "Suez Canal", proposed by Prince Hiram (chapter 55), had existed in ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt
Ancient Egypt was an ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in what is now the modern country of Egypt. Egyptian civilization coalesced around 3150 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under the first pharaoh...

's Middle Kingdom
Middle Kingdom of Egypt
The Middle Kingdom of Egypt is the period in the history of ancient Egypt stretching from the establishment of the Eleventh Dynasty to the end of the Fourteenth Dynasty, between 2055 BC and 1650 BC, although some writers include the Thirteenth and Fourteenth dynasties in the Second Intermediate...

, centuries before the period of the novel. Conversely, the remarkably accurate calculation of the earth's circumference by Eratosthenes
Eratosthenes of Cyrene was a Greek mathematician, poet, athlete, geographer, astronomer, and music theorist.He was the first person to use the word "geography" and invented the discipline of geography as we understand it...

, and the invention of a steam engine
Steam engine
A steam engine is a heat engine that performs mechanical work using steam as its working fluid.Steam engines are external combustion engines, where the working fluid is separate from the combustion products. Non-combustion heat sources such as solar power, nuclear power or geothermal energy may be...

 by Heron, both ascribed in chapter 60 to the priest Menes, had historically occurred in Alexandrian Egypt, centuries after the period of the novel.

In recent times, the progress of archaeological research and the more scientific spirit of history have encouraged audiences and artists to view anachronism as an offense or mistake.

Yet modern dramatic productions often rely on anachronism for effect. In particular, directors of Shakespeare's plays may use costumes and props not only of Shakespeare's day or their own, but of any era in between or even those of an imagined future. For instance, the musical Return to the Forbidden Planet
Return to the Forbidden Planet
Return to the Forbidden Planet is a Jukebox musical by playwright Bob Carlton based on Shakespeare's The Tempest and the 1950s science fiction film Forbidden Planet ....

 crosses The Tempest with popular music to create a science fiction musical.

A celebrated 1960 stage production of Hamlet
The Tragical History of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, or more simply Hamlet, is a tragedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1599 and 1601...

, starring Richard Burton
Richard Burton
Richard Burton, CBE was a Welsh actor. He was nominated seven times for an Academy Award, six of which were for Best Actor in a Leading Role , and was a recipient of BAFTA, Golden Globe and Tony Awards for Best Actor. Although never trained as an actor, Burton was, at one time, the highest-paid...

, was set on a bare New York stage in contemporary rehearsal clothes: the audience could have been watching the rehearsal before the dress rehearsal. The point of the staging was apparently that the story of Hamlet is a universal one that was equally credible in the 20th century as in the 17th.

Other popular adaptations of Shakespeare's plays that relied on anachronisms in props and setting were Titus
Titus (film)
Titus is a 1999 film adaptation of Shakespeare's revenge tragedy Titus Andronicus, about the downfall of a Roman general. It was the first film of the play . The film was made by Overseas Filmgroup and Clear Blue Sky Productions and released by Fox Searchlight Pictures...

 (1999) and William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet
William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet
William Shakespeare's Romeo + Juliet is a 1996 film adaptation of William Shakespeare's romantic tragedy of the same name. It was directed by Australian Baz Luhrmann and stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes in the leading roles....

 (1996). A similar approach was used in the 2001 film Moulin Rouge!
Moulin Rouge!
Moulin Rouge! is a 2001 romantic jukebox musical film directed, produced, and co-written by Baz Luhrmann. Following the Red Curtain Cinema principles, the film is based on the Orphean myth, La Traviata, and La Bohème...

, in which a diverse selection of 20th century music is used over a fin de siècle
Fin de siècle
Fin de siècle is French for "end of the century". The term sometimes encompasses both the closing and onset of an era, as it was felt to be a period of degeneration, but at the same time a period of hope for a new beginning...

 backdrop. Other films, such as Brazil
Brazil (film)
Brazil is a 1985 British science fiction fantasy/black comedy film directed by Terry Gilliam. It was written by Gilliam, Charles McKeown, and Tom Stoppard and stars Jonathan Pryce. The film also features Robert De Niro, Kim Greist, Michael Palin, Katherine Helmond, Bob Hoskins, and Ian Holm...

, A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events is a 2004 black comedy film directed by Brad Silberling. It is an adaptation of the The Bad Beginning, The Reptile Room, and The Wide Window, being the first three books in A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket...

, or Richard III
Richard III (1995 film)
Richard III is a 1995 drama film adapted from William Shakespeare's play of the same name, starring Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Jim Broadbent, Robert Downey Jr., Nigel Hawthorne, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith, John Wood and Dominic West....

 may create worlds so full of various conflicting anachronisms as to create a unique stylistic environment that lacks a specific period setting. This use of stylistic anachronism also often appears in children's movies, such as Shrek
Shrek is a 2001 American computer-animated fantasy comedy film directed by Andrew Adamson and Vicky Jenson, featuring the voices of Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, and John Lithgow. Loosely based on William Steig's 1990 fairy tale picture book Shrek!...

 and Hoodwinked
Hoodwinked!, also titled Hoodwinked on its theatrical poster and in other sources, is a 2005 American computer-animated family action comedy film, produced by Blue Yonder Films with Kanbar Entertainment, directed by Cory Edwards, Todd Edwards, Tony Leech, and produced by Maurice Kanbar, David K....

, where it is used for satirical
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

 effect. (see Comical anachronism below)

Sometimes a director may use anachronisms to offer a "fresh" angle on an already established story. Thus Andrew Lloyd Webber
Andrew Lloyd Webber
Andrew Lloyd Webber, Baron Lloyd-Webber is an English composer of musical theatre.Lloyd Webber has achieved great popular success in musical theatre. Several of his musicals have run for more than a decade both in the West End and on Broadway. He has composed 13 musicals, a song cycle, a set of...

 created two popular musicals, Jesus Christ Superstar
Jesus Christ Superstar
Jesus Christ Superstar is a rock opera by Andrew Lloyd Webber, with lyrics by Tim Rice. The musical started off as a rock opera concept recording before its first staging on Broadway in 1971...

 and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat
Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat is an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical with lyrics by Tim Rice. The story is based on the "coat of many colors" story of Joseph from the Hebrew Bible's Book of Genesis. This was the first Lloyd Webber and Rice musical to be performed publicly...

, which filled traditional biblical stories with modern-day sensibilities; and on a similar note, Catherine Hardwicke
Catherine Hardwicke
Catherine Hardwicke is an American production designer, film writer and film director. Her works include the independent film Thirteen, which she co-wrote with Nikki Reed, the film's co-star, the Biblically-themed The Nativity Story, the vampire film Twilight, and the werewolf film Red Riding Hood...

's The Nativity Story
The Nativity Story
The Nativity Story is a 2006 drama film based on the nativity of Jesus starring Keisha Castle-Hughes and Shohreh Aghdashloo. Filming began on May 1, 2006 in Matera, Italy and in Morocco. New Line Cinema released it on December 1, 2006 in the United States and one week later on December 8 in the...

 shows a field of maize-corn in a Nazareth farming scene. Maize-corn is native to Mesoamerica
Mesoamerica is a region and culture area in the Americas, extending approximately from central Mexico to Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, within which a number of pre-Columbian societies flourished before the Spanish colonization of the Americas in the 15th and...

; until the late 15th century it was grown only in the Americas.

Comical anachronism

Comedy , as a popular meaning, is any humorous discourse or work generally intended to amuse by creating laughter, especially in television, film, and stand-up comedy. This must be carefully distinguished from its academic definition, namely the comic theatre, whose Western origins are found in...

 works of fiction set in the past may use anachronism for a humorous effect. One of the first major films to use anachronism was Buster Keaton
Buster Keaton
Joseph Frank "Buster" Keaton was an American comic actor, filmmaker, producer and writer. He was best known for his silent films, in which his trademark was physical comedy with a consistently stoic, deadpan expression, earning him the nickname "The Great Stone Face".Keaton was recognized as the...

's The Three Ages, which included the invention of Stone Age
Stone Age
The Stone Age is a broad prehistoric period, lasting about 2.5 million years , during which humans and their predecessor species in the genus Homo, as well as the earlier partly contemporary genera Australopithecus and Paranthropus, widely used exclusively stone as their hard material in the...

Baseball is a bat-and-ball sport played between two teams of nine players each. The aim is to score runs by hitting a thrown ball with a bat and touching a series of four bases arranged at the corners of a ninety-foot diamond...

 and modern traffic problems in classical Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...


In J. R. R. Tolkien
J. R. R. Tolkien
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE was an English writer, poet, philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Pembroke College,...

's 1937 story Farmer Giles of Ham
Farmer Giles of Ham
"Farmer Giles of Ham" is a Medieval fable written by J. R. R. Tolkien in 1937 and published in 1949. The story describes the encounters between Farmer Giles and a wily dragon named Chrysophylax, and how Giles manages to use these to rise from humble beginnings to rival the king of the land...

 the protagonist - supposedly living before the time of King Arthur
King Arthur
King Arthur is a legendary British leader of the late 5th and early 6th centuries, who, according to Medieval histories and romances, led the defence of Britain against Saxon invaders in the early 6th century. The details of Arthur's story are mainly composed of folklore and literary invention, and...

 - is depicted using a blunderbuss
The blunderbuss is a muzzle-loading firearm with a short, large caliber barrel, which is flared at the muzzle and frequently throughout the entire bore, and used with shot and other projectiles of relevant quantity and/or caliber. The blunderbuss could be considered to be an early form of shotgun,...

. Clearly, Tolkien knew when firearms were invented, but he deliberately set out to write a lighthearted fantasy tale disregarding any consideration of historical accuracy.

Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks
Mel Brooks is an American film director, screenwriter, composer, lyricist, comedian, actor and producer. He is best known as a creator of broad film farces and comic parodies. He began his career as a stand-up comic and as a writer for the early TV variety show Your Show of Shows...

' 1974 film Blazing Saddles
Blazing Saddles
Blazing Saddles is a 1974 satirical Western comedy film directed by Mel Brooks. Starring Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder, the film was written by Brooks, Andrew Bergman, Richard Pryor, Norman Steinberg, and Al Uger, and was based on Bergman's story and draft. The movie was nominated for three...

, set in the Wild West in 1874, contains many blatant anachronisms from the 1970s, including a stylish Gucci
The House of Gucci, better known simply as Gucci , is an Italian fashion and leather goods label, part of the Gucci Group, which is owned by French company PPR...

 costume for the sheriff, an automobile
An automobile, autocar, motor car or car is a wheeled motor vehicle used for transporting passengers, which also carries its own engine or motor...

, a scene at Grauman's Chinese Theater, and frequent references to Hedy Lamarr
Hedy Lamarr
Hedy Lamarr was an Austrian-American actress celebrated for her great beauty who was a major contract star of MGM's "Golden Age".Lamarr also co-invented – with composer George Antheil – an early technique for spread spectrum communications and frequency hopping, necessary to wireless...


The cartoon The Flintstones
The Flintstones
The Flintstones is an animated, prime-time American television sitcom that screened from September 30, 1960 to April 1, 1966, on ABC. Produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions, The Flintstones was about a working class Stone Age man's life with his family and his next-door neighbor and best friend. It...

 depicts many modern appliances and ideas (such as the automobile) in a prehistoric setting—and depicts a dinosaur
Dinosaurs are a diverse group of animals of the clade and superorder Dinosauria. They were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period until the end of the Cretaceous , when the Cretaceous–Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of...

 as a household pet, which was obviously never the case. The Disney
Walt Disney Feature Animation
Walt Disney Animation Studios is an American animation studio headquartered in Burbank, California. The studio, founded in 1923 as the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio by brothers Walt and Roy Disney, is the oldest subsidiary of The Walt Disney Company...

 movie Aladdin, in particular, featured many brief jokes where the Genie briefly changed into caricatures of many famous people from all across time, including many 20th-century figures and comedians, for the purpose of quoting lines to steal jokes.

Series 3 of The Micallef Program
The Micallef Program
The Micallef Pogram is an Australian sketch comedy TV series hosted by Shaun Micallef, and written by Micallef and Gary McCaffrie, that ran from 1998 to 2001 on ABC TV. It was known as The Micallef Program in its first series, The Micallef Programme in its second series and The Micallef Pogram in...

 included a sketch by the name of 'Billy Anachronism' in which a janitor was sent back to multiple time periods before returning to the 1970s with several items of clothing depicting the places he had been.

In The Boondocks
The Boondocks (TV series)
The Boondocks is an American animated series created by Aaron McGruder on Cartoon Network's late night programing block, Adult Swim, based on McGruder's comic strip of the same name...

 episode "The Story of Catcher Freeman
The Story of Catcher Freeman
"The Story of Catcher Freeman" is the twelfth episode of the second season of the Adult Swim animated television series The Boondocks and the twenty seventh episode overall. It aired on January 28, 2008.-Plot:...

" an example of the use of anachronism is the mention of Batman
Batman is a fictional character created by the artist Bob Kane and writer Bill Finger. A comic book superhero, Batman first appeared in Detective Comics #27 , and since then has appeared primarily in publications by DC Comics...

 by one of the slaves, as Batman was created in 1939.

Peter Greenaway
Peter Greenaway
Peter Greenaway, CBE is a British film director. His films are noted for the distinct influence of Renaissance and Baroque painting, and Flemish painting in particular...

's The Draughtsman's Contract
The Draughtsman's Contract
The Draughtsman's Contract is a 1982 British film written and directed by Peter Greenaway – his first conventional feature film . Originally produced for Channel 4 the film is a form of murder mystery, set in 1694...

, set in the 18th century, shows pop art
Pop art
Pop art is an art movement that emerged in the mid 1950s in Britain and in the late 1950s in the United States. Pop art challenged tradition by asserting that an artist's use of the mass-produced visual commodities of popular culture is contiguous with the perspective of fine art...

 on the walls of the manor, and, in the uncut version, showed a character using a cordless phone
Cordless telephone
A cordless telephone or portable telephone is a telephone with a wireless handset that communicates via radio waves with a base station connected to a fixed telephone line, usually within a limited range of its base station...

. The latter scene was removed for issues of audience comprehensibility.

In a sketch in an episode of Robot Chicken
Robot Chicken
Robot Chicken is an American stop motion animated television series created and executive produced by Seth Green and Matthew Senreich along with co-head writers Douglas Goldstein and Tom Root. Green provides many voices for the show...

, a newspaper boy
A paperboy is the general name for a person employed by a newspaper, They are often used around the office to run low end errands. They make copies and distribute them. Paperboys traditionally were and are still often portrayed on television and movies as preteen boys, often on a bicycle...

 yells, "Extra, extra! Newspaper boys are anachronisms in modern day society, read all about it!".

Future anachronism

Anachronisms in stories set in the future can be either unintentional or intentional.


Even with careful research, science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 writers risk anachronism as their works age. For example, many books nominally set in the mid-21st century or later depict the continued existence of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, defunct in 1991, or that the city of Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg
Saint Petersburg is a city and a federal subject of Russia located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea...

 in northwestern Russia is still known as Leningrad, as appears in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home is a 1986 American science fiction film released by Paramount Pictures. It is the fourth feature film based on the Star Trek science fiction television series and completes the story arc begun in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and continued in Star Trek III: The...

. Such conflicts can be retconned by positing a return to the former state—a new Soviet Union emerging and the city's name changing back to Leningrad.

Stories published before the invention of solid-state electronics often depict characters in futuristic settings still using vacuum tube radios and slide rules. This is particularly noticeable in the Venus Equilateral
Venus Equilateral
The Venus Equilateral series is a set of 13 science fiction short stories by George O. Smith, concerning the Venus Equilateral Relay Station, an interplanetary communications hub located at the Lagrangian point of the Sun-Venus system...

 stories, written between 1942 and 1945 but set in the middle 21st century, where radio communication—using vacuum tubes, though more advanced than the ones at the time of writing—is a major plot subject.

Clifford Simak's Time is the Simplest Thing (published in 1961) is set in the 22nd Century—a time when cars are equipped with atomic engines and do not touch the ground, teleportation
Teleportation is the fictional or imagined process by which matter is instantaneously transferred from one place to another.Teleportation may also refer to:*Quantum teleportation, a method of transmitting quantum data...

 exists though not yet available to the general public, and a form of traveling to stars thousands of light years distant was created—yet telephone calls go through manual telephone exchange
Telephone exchange
In the field of telecommunications, a telephone exchange or telephone switch is a system of electronic components that connects telephone calls...

s which have never been automated.

Many of the works of Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury
Ray Douglas Bradbury is an American fantasy, horror, science fiction, and mystery writer. Best known for his dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 and for the science fiction stories gathered together as The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man , Bradbury is one of the most celebrated among 20th...

 depict futuristic families who rely on helicopters as a main mode of travel; such a replacement of the car by the helicopter has not occurred by the date stated in the stories. The same is true for Heinlein
Robert A. Heinlein
Robert Anson Heinlein was an American science fiction writer. Often called the "dean of science fiction writers", he was one of the most influential and controversial authors of the genre. He set a standard for science and engineering plausibility and helped to raise the genre's standards of...

's The Puppet Masters
The Puppet Masters
The Puppet Masters is a 1951 science fiction novel by Robert A. Heinlein in which American secret agents battle parasitic invaders from outer space...


H. Beam Piper
H. Beam Piper
Henry Beam Piper was an American science fiction author. He wrote many short stories and several novels. He is best known for his extensive Terro-Human Future History series of stories and a shorter series of "Paratime" alternate history tales.He wrote under the name H. Beam Piper...

's novels, largely set in the 27th century "Atomic Era" (circa 2600) envision anti-gravity drives and super-luminal travel
Faster-than-light communications and travel refer to the propagation of information or matter faster than the speed of light....

, but still depict analog tape-based recording. Futuristic films, such as A Clockwork Orange
A Clockwork Orange (film)
A Clockwork Orange is a 1971 film adaptation of Anthony Burgess's 1962 novel of the same name. It was written, directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick...

, sometimes have anachronisms, such as the fact that in that film a 1960s Volkswagen Beetle
Volkswagen Beetle
The Volkswagen Type 1, widely known as the Volkswagen Beetle or Volkswagen Bug, is an economy car produced by the German auto maker Volkswagen from 1938 until 2003...

 is run off the road, and listening to microcassette
A Microcassette is an audio storage medium introduced by Olympus in 1969. It uses the same width of magnetic tape as the Compact Cassette but in a much smaller container. By using thinner tape and half or a quarter the tape speed, microcassettes can offer comparable recording time to the compact...

s in a film set deep in the late 20th century. (Note, however, that in our timeline, a modernized version of the Beetle
Volkswagen New Beetle
-Specifications:*Dimension:**Length: **Width: **Height: **Wheelbase: **Curb weight: *Max speed: 177–210 km/h *Acceleration : 6.5-13.2 sec-Body styles:-Engine choices:-Safety:...

 was introduced in 1998.)

This can happen another way as well: William Gibson
William Gibson
William Gibson is an American-Canadian science fiction author.William Gibson may also refer to:-Association football:*Will Gibson , Scottish footballer...

's Sprawl trilogy depicts a cyberpunk
Cyberpunk is a postmodern and science fiction genre noted for its focus on "high tech and low life." The name is a portmanteau of cybernetics and punk, and was originally coined by Bruce Bethke as the title of his short story "Cyberpunk," published in 1983...

 world of fantastically advanced technology in which personal mobile phones do not exist, characters rely extensively on pay phones or exotic satellite-based communication and 8 megabytes of RAM
-Animals:*Ram, an uncastrated male sheep*Ram cichlid, a species of freshwater fish endemic to Colombia and Venezuela-Military:*Battering ram*Ramming, a military tactic in which one vehicle runs into another...

 is a valuable commodity. (Mobile phone
Mobile phone
A mobile phone is a device which can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link whilst moving around a wide geographic area. It does so by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile network operator...

s already existed at the time of the works, but they were big, clunky, and expensive; Gibson did not foresee their miniaturization and ubiquity.)

A more subtle example may be found in the 1989 film Back to the Future Part II
Back to the Future Part II
Back to the Future Part II is a 1989 American science fiction comedy film and the second installment of the Back to the Future trilogy. It was directed by Robert Zemeckis, written by Zemeckis and Bob Gale, and starred Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Thomas F. Wilson and Lea Thompson...

, where it is assumed that fax machines are ubiquitous as of 2015 instead of email. Shows like The Jetsons
The Jetsons
The Jetsons is a animated American sitcom that was produced by Hanna-Barbera, originally airing in prime-time from 1962–1963 and again from 1985–1987...

 also tend to have a number of them, predicting that 1960s style rock music would still be unacceptable to adults, or that media of any kind would still be recorded on tape. This is satirized in the Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law
Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law
Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law is an American animated television series comedy created by Williams Street and produced by Cartoon Network Studios that aired on Cartoon Network during its Adult Swim late night programming block. The series' pilot first aired in 2000, and later became a series in...

 episode Back to the Present.

In the 1982 film Blade Runner
Blade Runner
Blade Runner is a 1982 American science fiction film directed by Ridley Scott and starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, and Sean Young. The screenplay, written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, is loosely based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K...

  which is set in 2019, Atari
Atari is a corporate and brand name owned by several entities since its inception in 1972. It is currently owned by Atari Interactive, a wholly owned subsidiary of the French publisher Atari, SA . The original Atari, Inc. was founded in 1972 by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney. It was a pioneer in...

, which was liquidated by the late 1980s
File:1980s decade montage.png|thumb|400px|From left, clockwise: The first Space Shuttle, Columbia, lifted off in 1981; American President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev eased tensions between the two superpowers, leading to the end of the Cold War; The Fall of the Berlin Wall in...

 is portrayed as the main source of computer products. Also the film depicts cigarettes as being advertised, not anticipating that by the early 2000s most developed nations would have had legislated against tobacco
Tobacco is an agricultural product processed from the leaves of plants in the genus Nicotiana. It can be consumed, used as a pesticide and, in the form of nicotine tartrate, used in some medicines...

 advertisement in the name of health.

In the finale of Dawson's Creek
Dawson's Creek
Dawson's Creek is an American teen drama television series which debuted on January 20, 1998, on The WB Television Network and was produced by Sony Pictures Television. The show is set in the fictional seaside town of Capeside, Massachusetts, and in Boston, Massachusetts, during the later seasons...

 which is set in 2008, The WB network logo is seen on a poster for Dawson's television series (the network merged with UPN
United Paramount Network was a television network that was broadcast in over 200 markets in the United States from 1995 to 2006. UPN was originally owned by Viacom/Paramount and Chris-Craft Industries, the former of which, through the Paramount Television Group, produced most of the network's...

 in 2006 to form The CW).


Anachronisms are sometimes intentionally used in stories about the future. This can function to make the story seem comical or help a contemporary audience to relate to a story set in the future.
The television series Firefly
Firefly (TV series)
Firefly is an American space western television series created by writer and director Joss Whedon, under his Mutant Enemy Productions label. Whedon served as executive producer, along with Tim Minear....

s vision of a pioneer culture dominant in the outer regions of the galaxy mirrors the mid-West pioneer culture of 19th century United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. This can be seen as an anachronism, but one which helps an audience to identify with characters and even see the story as allegory, as the creator wanted the story to follow people who had fought on the losing side of a war and their experiences afterwards as pioneers and immigrants on the outskirts of civilization, much like the post-American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...

 era of Reconstruction and the American Old West
American Old West
The American Old West, or the Wild West, comprises the history, geography, people, lore, and cultural expression of life in the Western United States, most often referring to the latter half of the 19th century, between the American Civil War and the end of the century...


Sometimes terms are intentionally used anachronistically, especially when referring to futuristic technology and the writers prefer to retain audience identification instead of creating a new term that would then have to be explained. The original Star Trek
Star Trek
Star Trek is an American science fiction entertainment franchise created by Gene Roddenberry. The core of Star Trek is its six television series: The Original Series, The Animated Series, The Next Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager, and Enterprise...

 series also made reference to "computer tapes" although the storage media seen strongly resembled floppy disk
Floppy disk
A floppy disk is a disk storage medium composed of a disk of thin and flexible magnetic storage medium, sealed in a rectangular plastic carrier lined with fabric that removes dust particles...

s, which had not yet been invented in the real world.

One work where nominal anachronisms are present but not fatal to credibility is David Brin
David Brin
Glen David Brin, Ph.D. is an American scientist and award-winning author of science fiction. He has received the Hugo, Locus, Campbell and Nebula Awards.-Biography:...

's 1990 novel Earth
Earth (novel)
Earth is a 1990 science fiction novel written by David Brin. The book was nominated for the Hugo and Locus Awards in 1991.-Plot introduction:...

. Brin foresees the ubiquity of the computer networks (but not the term Internet), but he was writing in the year before the World Wide Web
World Wide Web
The World Wide Web is a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet...

 was made popular. He therefore refers to documents that are readily available to computer users but called by clumsy numeric identifiers, rather than URLs. He also imagines that personal video recorders, like camcorder
A camcorder is an electronic device that combines a video camera and a video recorder into one unit. Equipment manufacturers do not seem to have strict guidelines for the term usage...

s, would influence civil liberties
Civil liberties
Civil liberties are rights and freedoms that provide an individual specific rights such as the freedom from slavery and forced labour, freedom from torture and death, the right to liberty and security, right to a fair trial, the right to defend one's self, the right to own and bear arms, the right...

 by making it possible for ordinary citizens to film crimes committed by police, as well as by hooligans. He does not foresee the ways in which both still photographs and video can be transmitted, making it possible for amateur reporters to cover breaking news stories and get their stories televised.

Accidental and intentional

With the detail required for a modern historical movie it is easy to introduce anachronisms.
  • The 1995 hit film Apollo 13
    Apollo 13 (film)
    Apollo 13 is a 1995 American drama film directed by Ron Howard. The film stars Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Bill Paxton, Gary Sinise, Kathleen Quinlan and Ed Harris. The screenplay by William Broyles, Jr...

     contains numerous errors, including a wrong NASA
    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

     logo and the appearance of The Beatles
    The Beatles
    The Beatles were an English rock band, active throughout the 1960s and one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. Formed in Liverpool, by 1962 the group consisted of John Lennon , Paul McCartney , George Harrison and Ringo Starr...

    ' Let It Be
    Let It Be (album)
    Let It Be is the 12th and final studio album released by the English rock band The Beatles. It was released on 8 May 1970 by the band's Apple Records label shortly after the group announced their break-up....

     album a month before it was released.
  • The film Grounding, about the collapse of the airline Swissair
    Swissair AG was the former national airline of Switzerland.It was formed from a merger between Balair and Ad Astra Aero , in 1931...

    , is set in September 2001, yet computers are shown using Windows XP
    Windows XP
    Windows XP is an operating system produced by Microsoft for use on personal computers, including home and business desktops, laptops and media centers. First released to computer manufacturers on August 24, 2001, it is the second most popular version of Windows, based on installed user base...

    , which was released a month later, and some VW Phaetons
    Volkswagen Phaeton
    The Volkswagen Phaeton is a full-size luxury sedan/saloon manufactured by German automaker Volkswagen, and is described by Volkswagen as their "premium class" vehicle...

     are being used, which were released a year later.
  • Many movies about World War II
    World War II
    World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

     depict cardiopulmonary resuscitation
    Cardiopulmonary resuscitation
    Cardiopulmonary resuscitation is an emergency procedure which is performed in an effort to manually preserve intact brain function until further measures are taken to restore spontaneous blood circulation and breathing in a person in cardiac arrest. It is indicated in those who are unresponsive...

     being performed, although it was more widely described and popularized in the late 1950s.
  • A scene from the movie Goodfellas
    Goodfellas is a 1990 American crime film directed by Martin Scorsese. It is a film adaptation of the 1986 non-fiction book Wiseguy by Nicholas Pileggi, who co-wrote the screenplay with Scorsese...

    , captioned "Idlewild Airport
    John F. Kennedy International Airport
    John F. Kennedy International Airport is an international airport located in the borough of Queens in New York City, about southeast of Lower Manhattan. It is the busiest international air passenger gateway to the United States, handling more international traffic than any other airport in North...

     1963", shows a Boeing 747
    Boeing 747
    The Boeing 747 is a wide-body commercial airliner and cargo transport, often referred to by its original nickname, Jumbo Jet, or Queen of the Skies. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first wide-body ever produced...

     flying over, but the 747 did not make its first flight until 1969. Also Ray Liotta is seen leaning on a 1965 Impala.
  • The film Titanic
    Titanic (1997 film)
    Titanic is a 1997 American epic romance and disaster film directed, written, co-produced, and co-edited by James Cameron. A fictionalized account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio as Jack Dawson, Kate Winslet as Rose DeWitt Bukater and Billy Zane as Rose's fiancé, Cal...

     (1997) also contains a well-known anachronism. Jack, one of the main characters in the movie (played by Leonardo di Caprio), claims to have gone ice fishing on Lake Wissota
    Lake Wissota
    Lake Wissota is a reservoir in Chippewa County, Wisconsin, USA, just east of the city of Chippewa Falls. It covers an area of and has a maximum depth of . The lake was formed by the construction of a hydroelectric dam on the Chippewa River, completed in 1917. The dam was built by the...

    , near Chippewa Falls
    Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin
    Chippewa Falls is a city located on the Chippewa River in Chippewa County in the U.S. state of Wisconsin. The population was 13,661 at the 2010 census. Incorporated as a city in 1869, it is the county seat of Chippewa County....

    , Wisconsin
    Wisconsin is a U.S. state located in the north-central United States and is part of the Midwest. It is bordered by Minnesota to the west, Iowa to the southwest, Illinois to the south, Lake Michigan to the east, Michigan to the northeast, and Lake Superior to the north. Wisconsin's capital is...

    . Lake Wissota is a man-made reservoir which was not created until 1917, five years after the Titanic sank. Rose also pays Jack with a dime that has Franklin Roosevelt's picture.
  • A series of novels set among German soldiers in World War II
    World War II
    World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

     describes Russians using AK-47
    The AK-47 is a selective-fire, gas-operated 7.62×39mm assault rifle, first developed in the Soviet Union by Mikhail Kalashnikov. It is officially known as Avtomat Kalashnikova . It is also known as a Kalashnikov, an "AK", or in Russian slang, Kalash.Design work on the AK-47 began in the last year...

    s, which were invented in 1947.
  • The movie "Start the Revolution Without Me
    Start the Revolution Without Me
    Start the Revolution Without Me is a 1970 film directed by Bud Yorkin, starring Gene Wilder, Donald Sutherland, Hugh Griffith, Jack MacGowran, Billie Whitelaw, Orson Welles and Victor Spinetti. The comedy is set in revolutionary France where two peasants are mistaken for the famous swordsmen, the...

    ", which acts in 1750, has a prominent character Christina, a Belgian
    Belgium , officially the Kingdom of Belgium, is a federal state in Western Europe. It is a founding member of the European Union and hosts the EU's headquarters, and those of several other major international organisations such as NATO.Belgium is also a member of, or affiliated to, many...

     princess. However, Belgium was not founded until 1830.

Cinematic anachronisms that result from inappropriate objects in a film or television program are commonplace even if they are unintentional. Often these are faults of costume, especially for a television series filmed with a low budget. Thus episodes of a 1960s series relating to the frontiersman Daniel Boone
Daniel Boone
Daniel Boone was an American pioneer, explorer, and frontiersman whose frontier exploits mad']'e him one of the first folk heroes of the United States. Boone is most famous for his exploration and settlement of what is now the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which was then beyond the western borders of...

 have been shown with 20th century hairdos and clothing with plastic buttons. At times some modern actor unwilling to put aside a prized wristwatch during a filming of an epic of ancient times is shown with the bulge of the wristwatch under a toga
The toga, a distinctive garment of Ancient Rome, was a cloth of perhaps 20 ft in length which was wrapped around the body and was generally worn over a tunic. The toga was made of wool, and the tunic under it often was made of linen. After the 2nd century BC, the toga was a garment worn...

 even if the watch or its band is not partially exposed. A ballpoint pen
Ballpoint pen
A ballpoint pen is a writing instrument with an internal ink reservoir and a sphere for a point. The internal chamber is filled with a viscous ink that is dispensed at its tip during use by the rolling action of a small sphere...

, a commonplace object of the late 20th century, would not be available until after World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 to Americans, so any incidence of Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin D. Roosevelt
Franklin Delano Roosevelt , also known by his initials, FDR, was the 32nd President of the United States and a central figure in world events during the mid-20th century, leading the United States during a time of worldwide economic crisis and world war...

 or any earlier President of the United States
President of the United States
The President of the United States of America is the head of state and head of government of the United States. The president leads the executive branch of the federal government and is the commander-in-chief of the United States Armed Forces....

 signing legislation with one demonstrates an anachronism.

The popular 1970's television
Television is a telecommunication medium for transmitting and receiving moving images that can be monochrome or colored, with accompanying sound...

 series The Waltons
The Waltons
The Waltons is an American television series created by Earl Hamner, Jr., based on his book Spencer's Mountain, and a 1963 film of the same name. The show centered on a family growing up in a rural Virginia community during the Great Depression and World War II. The series pilot was a television...

, set in the Blue Ridge Mountains
Blue Ridge Mountains
The Blue Ridge Mountains are a physiographic province of the larger Appalachian Mountains range. This province consists of northern and southern physiographic regions, which divide near the Roanoke River gap. The mountain range is located in the eastern United States, starting at its southern-most...

 of Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

 during Franklin Roosevelt's presidency in the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 and later, World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, contained several anachronistic references to things which occurred during the pre-war Depression era. The first season is set in 1933, yet in the first episode, the family listens to Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy's
Edgar Bergen
Edgar John Bergen was an American actor and radio performer, best known as a ventriloquist.-Early life:...

 radio show, which did not start until 1937. In the fifth episode, breaking news of an earthquake in Long Beach, California
1933 Long Beach earthquake
The Long Beach earthquake of 1933 took place on March 10, 1933 at 17:55 PST , with a magnitude of 6.4, causing widespread damage to buildings throughout Southern California. The epicenter was offshore, southeast of Long Beach on the Newport-Inglewood Fault. An estimated fifty million dollars worth...

 is discussed, though it actually occurred on March 10, 1933 (just six days into Roosevelt's presidency).

A number of accidental anachronisms occur in Franc Roddam
Franc Roddam
Francis George "Franc" Roddam is an English film director, businessman, screenwriter, television producer and publisher. He is married to photographer, Leila Ansari, and has six children from previous marriages. He currently lives in London.-Career:Roddam's films include "Quadrophenia", "K2",...

's 1979 film Quadrophenia
Quadrophenia (film)
Quadrophenia is a 1979 British film, loosely based around the 1973 rock opera of the same name by The Who. The film stars Phil Daniels as a Mod named Jimmy. It was directed by Franc Roddam in his feature directing debut...

. Based on Pete Townshend
Pete Townshend
Peter Dennis Blandford "Pete" Townshend is an English rock guitarist, vocalist, songwriter and author, known principally as the guitarist and songwriter for the rock group The Who, as well as for his own solo career...

 and The Who
The Who
The Who are an English rock band formed in 1964 by Roger Daltrey , Pete Townshend , John Entwistle and Keith Moon . They became known for energetic live performances which often included instrument destruction...

's 1973 double album
Quadrophenia is the sixth studio album by English rock band The Who. Released on 19 October 1973 by Track and Polydor in the UK, and Track and MCA in the US, it is a double album, and the group's second rock opera...

 about a troubled London teenager trying to fit into the hedonistic early 1960s Mod scene, the film is widely believed to be set in 1964, as it depicts the Mods and Rockers
Mods and Rockers
The Mods and Rockers were two conflicting British youth subcultures of the early-mid 1960s. Mods and rockers fighting in 1964 sparked a moral panic about British youths, and the two groups were seen as folk devils. The rockers were motorcyclists, wearing clothes such as black leather jackets. The...

 seaside battle on Brighton
Brighton is the major part of the city of Brighton and Hove in East Sussex, England on the south coast of Great Britain...

 beach and shows Jimmy's newspaper cuttings of similar battles at Hastings and Margate that same year. The numerous mirrors, lamps and chromed frames adorning Jimmy's Lambretta
Lambretta can refer to:* Lambretta, a petrol-powered scooter made by Innocenti* Lambretta , a clothing brand* Lambretta , a Swedish rock band* The Lambrettas, a British mod revival band...

 scooter also suggest 1964 rather than the stripped-down scooters of later years. However, 1970s car models are seen in street scenes, such as the Austin Allegro
Austin Allegro
The Austin Allegro is a small family car manufactured by British Leyland under the Austin name from 1973 until 1983. The same vehicle was built in Italy by Innocenti between 1974 and 1975 and sold as the Innocenti Regent...

. At a house party, the sleeve of Who LP A Quick One
A Quick One
A Quick One is the second album by English rock band The Who, released in 1966. The American record company executives at Decca Records released the album under the title Happy Jack, rather than the sexually suggestive title of the original UK release, and due to "Happy Jack" being a top 40 hit in...

 is on the top of the record player, yet it was not released until the end of 1966. Also, in a scene on Brighton promenade, a cinema is advertising Heaven Can Wait
Heaven Can Wait (1978 film)
Heaven Can Wait is a 1978 American comedy film directed by Warren Beatty and Buck Henry. It is the second film adaptation of Harry Segall's stageplay of the same name, preceded by Here Comes Mr. Jordan and followed by Down to Earth...

, a film not made until 1978. Furthermore, while Jimmy is watching an episode of Ready Steady Go!
Ready Steady Go!
Ready Steady Go! or simply RSG! was one of the UK's first rock/pop music TV programmes. It was conceived by Elkan Allan, head of Rediffusion TV. Allan was assisted by record producer/talent manager Vicki Wickham, who became the producer. It was broadcast from August 1963 until December 1966...

 on TV in 1964 (a pop-music programme aired 1963-66), The Who appear, singing "Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere
"Anyway, Anyhow, Anywhere" was a single released by The Who in 1965. It features call-and-response lyrics and some of the first ever recorded guitar feedback. The song was composed by guitarist Pete Townshend and vocalist Roger Daltrey, the only time they wrote together...

", a song not released until May 1965.

Sometimes movie anachronisms are intentional, while appearing accidental. An example is the musical score of The Sting
The Sting
The Sting is a 1973 American caper film set in September 1936 that involves a complicated plot by two professional grifters to con a mob boss . The film was directed by George Roy Hill, who previously directed Newman and Redford in the western Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.Created by...

. The ragtime
Ragtime is an original musical genre which enjoyed its peak popularity between 1897 and 1918. Its main characteristic trait is its syncopated, or "ragged," rhythm. It began as dance music in the red-light districts of American cities such as St. Louis and New Orleans years before being published...

 piano music by Scott Joplin
Scott Joplin
Scott Joplin was an American composer and pianist. Joplin achieved fame for his ragtime compositions, and was later dubbed "The King of Ragtime". During his brief career, Joplin wrote 44 original ragtime pieces, one ragtime ballet, and two operas...

 was composed in the 1890s and 20th century, while the setting of the movie was the 1930s Great Depression. Although Joplin's music is not contemporary with the 1930s, its use in The Sting evokes a 1930s gangster film, The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy
The Public Enemy is a 1931 American Pre-Code crime film starring James Cagney and directed by William A. Wellman. The film relates the story of a young man's rise in the criminal underworld in prohibition-era urban America...

, which had also used Scott Joplin theme music. The presence of Joplin's music might give the impression that the movie's backdrop and music are from the same period or, conversely, be mistaken as an unintentional anachronism by viewers unaware of the allusion to the earlier film.

Technical advances can also cause anachronisms, especially in movies set in the future. Numerous examples of this can be seen in the 1995 film Harrison Bergeron
Harrison Bergeron (film)
Harrison Bergeron is a 1995 cable television movie film loosely adapted from Kurt Vonnegut's 1961 short story of the same name. It was produced for Showtime, and first screened on August 13, 1995.-Premise:...

, set in 2081. Throughout the film, numerous analog CRT television sets are visible, along with other anachronisms, such as the analog nature and hardware-level programming of handicapping headbands. (One would expect the headbands to be programmable using a computer, as opposed to adjusting by hand.) In a large number of Yugoslavian movies about World War II, 1960s FAP and Tam trucks were used. A 1940 Ford fire truck was used in the 1967 movie Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie and Clyde (film)
The film was originally offered to François Truffaut, the best-known director of the New Wave movement, who made contributions to the script. He passed on the project to make Fahrenheit 451. The producers approached Jean-Luc Godard next...

; the real-life outlaws
Bonnie and Clyde
Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow were well-known outlaws, robbers, and criminals who traveled the Central United States with their gang during the Great Depression. Their exploits captured the attention of the American public during the "public enemy era" between 1931 and 1934...

 had been killed in 1934.

Anachronisms can show up when filming on location
Filming location
A filming location is a place where some or all of a film or television series is produced, in addition to or instead of using sets constructed on a movie studio backlot or soundstage...

 since buildings or natural features may be present that would not have been at the time the film was set (think of movies that have already been filmed, that are set in the future and contain footage of the World Trade Center
World Trade Center
The original World Trade Center was a complex with seven buildings featuring landmark twin towers in Lower Manhattan, New York City, United States. The complex opened on April 4, 1973, and was destroyed in 2001 during the September 11 attacks. The site is currently being rebuilt with five new...

 in New York
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

, such as Vanilla Sky
Vanilla Sky
Vanilla Sky is a 2001 American psychological thriller film directed, co-produced and co-written by Cameron Crowe. The film is an English-language remake of the 1997 Spanish movie Abre los ojos , the screenplay for which was written by Alejandro Amenábar and Mateo Gil...

) or may be missing in the film but existed at the time the movie was set. Another example is the Coen brothers movie No Country for Old Men
No Country for Old Men (film)
No Country for Old Men is a 2007 American crime thriller directed by Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, and starring Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, and Josh Brolin. The film was adapted from the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name...

, set in early 1980s Texas, in which a modern-day Carl's Jr.
Carl's Jr.
Carl's Jr. is an American fast-food restaurant chain located mostly in the Western and Southwestern United States. The first store has opened in Canada in Kelowna, BC. They are in the process of expanding to Mexico, Malaysia, Denmark, Costa Rica, New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Russia, Vietnam,...

 is visible in the background. The chain did not open its first Texas locations until later in that decade, and did not use its current markings until the 2000s. Similar anachronisms are noticeable in the film The Blue Max
The Blue Max
The Blue Max is an 1966 British war film about a German fighter pilot on the Western Front during World War I. It was directed by John Guillermin, stars George Peppard, James Mason and Ursula Andress, and features Karl Michael Vogler and Jeremy Kemp. The screenplay was written by David Pursall,...

, in which outdoor television antennas are visible on buildings, during scenes set in 1918.

In the BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

 science-fiction sitcom Red Dwarf
Red Dwarf
Red Dwarf is a British comedy franchise which primarily comprises eight series of a television science fiction sitcom that aired on BBC Two between 1988 and 1999 and Dave from 2009–present. It gained cult following. It was created by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, who also wrote the first six series...

, set on a 23rd century spacecraft, Sony Trinitron
Trinitron is Sony's brand name for its line of aperture grille based CRTs used in television sets and computer display monitors. One of the first truly new television systems to enter the market since the 1950s, the Trinitron was announced in 1966 to wide acclaim for its bright images, about 25%...

 monitors are seen throughout the ship and VHS
The Video Home System is a consumer-level analog recording videocassette standard developed by Victor Company of Japan ....

 and Betamax
Betamax was a consumer-level analog videocassette magnetic tape recording format developed by Sony, released on May 10, 1975. The cassettes contain -wide videotape in a design similar to the earlier, professional wide, U-matic format...

 video cassettes are still in use. One of these unintentional anachronisms is used for comic effect in Red Dwarf: Back to Earth
Red Dwarf: Back to Earth
Red Dwarf: Back to Earth is a three part TV miniseries continuation of the science fiction sitcom Red Dwarf, broadcast on the British television channel Dave between 10 April and 12 April 2009 and subsequently released on DVD on 15 June 2009 & on Blu-ray on 31 August 2009. It was the first...

, when it was explained that DVD
A DVD is an optical disc storage media format, invented and developed by Philips, Sony, Toshiba, and Panasonic in 1995. DVDs offer higher storage capacity than Compact Discs while having the same dimensions....

s were discontinued sometime in the late 21st century because "humans were utterly incapable of putting them back in the cases" and that "videos are too big to lose".

In the case of films made in the past but set in the future, a building or feature may be seen that is known to no longer exist. Especially with regards to historical items and vehicles, anachronisms can stem from convenience, for example a historically accurate item might be replaced with a later but fairly similar item, especially if a historically accurate item cannot be sourced. In the case of replicas, signs of modern construction techniques may be visible. In some cases, though, due to technological entrenchment, anachronisms cannot be helped, such as in the British television show Life on Mars
Life on Mars (TV series)
Life on Mars is a British television series broadcast on BBC One between January 2006 and April 2007. The series combines elements of science fiction and police procedural....

 (set in the 1970s), where it would require an excessive amount of work to remove present-day outdoor amenities such as park benches or satellite dishes.

Language anachronism

Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

 anachronisms in novels and films are quite common. They can be intentional or unintentional. Intentional anachronisms let us understand more readily a film set in the past. Language and pronunciation change so fast that most modern people (even many scholars) would not easily be able to understand a film with people speaking English as they did in the 17th century; thus, we willingly accept characters speaking an updated language. Unintentional anachronisms include putting modern slang
Slang is the use of informal words and expressions that are not considered standard in the speaker's language or dialect but are considered more acceptable when used socially. Slang is often to be found in areas of the lexicon that refer to things considered taboo...

 and figures of speech into the mouths of characters from the past. Modern audiences want to understand George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 when he speaks, but if he starts talking about "the bottom line" (a figure of speech
Figure of speech
A figure of speech is the use of a word or words diverging from its usual meaning. It can also be a special repetition, arrangement or omission of words with literal meaning, or a phrase with a specialized meaning not based on the literal meaning of the words in it, as in idiom, metaphor, simile,...

 that did not come into popular language until almost two centuries after Washington's time), that can be an unintentional anachronism.

A literary work such as Quo Vadis
Quo Vadis (novel)
Quo Vadis: A Narrative of the Time of Nero, commonly known as Quo Vadis, is a historical novel written by Henryk Sienkiewicz in Polish. Quo vadis is Latin for "Where are you going?" and alludes to the apocryphal Acts of Peter, in which Peter flees Rome but on his way meets Jesus and asks him why he...

 set in the time of Nero
Nero , was Roman Emperor from 54 to 68, and the last in the Julio-Claudian dynasty. Nero was adopted by his great-uncle Claudius to become his heir and successor, and succeeded to the throne in 54 following Claudius' death....

 is written in Polish
Polish language
Polish is a language of the Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages, used throughout Poland and by Polish minorities in other countries...

, a language that did not exist in Roman times and is usually translated into other languages that did not exist in ancient times because modern audiences generally do not understand Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

, the language of Rome, any more than non-Poles can be expected to understand Polish. That sort of anachronism is generally excused.

At the most blatant, linguistic anachronisms can demonstrate the fraudulence of a document purportedly from an earlier time. The use of 19th- and 20th-century antisemitic terminology demonstrates that the supposed "Franklin Prophecy" is a forgery, as Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin
Dr. Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A noted polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, musician, inventor, satirist, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat...

 died in 1790.

In academia

Anachronism in academic writing is considered at best embarrassing, as in early 20th century scholarship's use of Translatio imperii
Translatio imperii
Translatio imperii, Latin for "transfer of rule", is a concept invented in the Middle Ages for describing history as a linear succession of transfers of imperium, that is of supreme power concentrated with a series of single rulers .-Origin:...

 to interpret 10th century literature, when it was first formulated in the 12th century. Genuine errors will usually be acknowledged in a subsequent erratum
An erratum or corrigendum is a correction of a book. An erratum is most commonly issued shortly after its original text is published. Patches to security issues in a computer program are also sometimes called errata. As a general rule, publishers issue an erratum for a production error An erratum...


The use in a hyperbolic sense is more complex: to refer to the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 as the First Reich
Reich is a German word cognate with the English rich, but also used to designate an empire, realm, or nation. The qualitative connotation from the German is " sovereign state." It is the word traditionally used for a variety of sovereign entities, including Germany in many periods of its history...

, for example, is inaccurate but may be a useful comparative exercise; the application of theory to works which predate Marxist, Feminist or Freudian subjectivities is considered an essential part of theoretical practice. In most cases, however, the practitioner will acknowledge or justify the use or context.

See also

  • Anatopism
    An anatopism is something that is out of its proper place. Thus, for example, an outrigger canoe would be an anatopism in ancient Rome....

  • Ancient astronaut theory
    Ancient astronaut theory
    Some writers have proposed that intelligent extraterrestrial beings have visited Earth in antiquity or prehistory and made contact with humans. Such visitors are called ancient astronauts or ancient aliens. Proponents suggest that this contact influenced the development of human cultures,...

  • Antikythera mechanism
    Antikythera mechanism
    The Antikythera mechanism is an ancient mechanical computer designed to calculate astronomical positions. It was recovered in 1900–1901 from the Antikythera wreck. Its significance and complexity were not understood until decades later. Its time of construction is now estimated between 150 and 100...

  • Blackadder
    Blackadder is the name that encompassed four series of a BBC1 historical sitcom, along with several one-off instalments. All television programme episodes starred Rowan Atkinson as anti-hero Edmund Blackadder and Tony Robinson as Blackadder's dogsbody, Baldrick...

  • Book of Mormon anachronisms
    Book of Mormon anachronisms
    There are a variety of words and phrases in the Book of Mormon that are considered anachronistic as their existence in the text of the Book of Mormon is at odds with known linguistic patterns, archaeological findings, or known historical events....

  • A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
    A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
    A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court is an 1889 novel by American humorist and writer Mark Twain. The book was originally titled A Yankee in King Arthur's Court...

    , by Mark Twain
    Mark Twain
    Samuel Langhorne Clemens , better known by his pen name Mark Twain, was an American author and humorist...

  • History Bites
    History Bites
    History Bites was a television series on the History Television network that ran from 1998-2003. Created by Rick Green, History Bites explored what would be on television if the medium had been around for the last 5,000 years of human history. Typically, a significant historical event was chosen...

  • Kitsch
    Kitsch is a form of art that is considered an inferior, tasteless copy of an extant style of art or a worthless imitation of art of recognized value. The concept is associated with the deliberate use of elements that may be thought of as cultural icons while making cheap mass-produced objects that...

  • Nonlinear (arts)
    Nonlinear (arts)
    Nonlinear narrative, disjointed narrative or disrupted narrative is a narrative technique, sometimes used in literature, film, hypertext websites and other narratives, wherein events are portrayed out of chronological order...

  • Parachronism
    A parachronism is anything that appears in a temporal context in which, though not sufficiently out of place as to be impossible, it is not normally found...

  • Presentism (literary and historical analysis)
    Presentism (literary and historical analysis)
    Presentism is a mode of literary or historical analysis in which present-day ideas and perspectives are anachronistically introduced into depictions or interpretations of the past...

  • Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome
    Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome
    Soap Opera Rapid Aging Syndrome is a term used to describe the practice of accelerating the age of a television character in conflict with the timeline of a series and/or the real-world progression of time. Characters unseen on screen for a time might reappear portrayed by an actor several years...

  • Society for Creative Anachronism
    Society for Creative Anachronism
    The Society for Creative Anachronism is an international living history group with the aim of studying and recreating mainly Medieval European cultures and their histories before the 17th century...

  • Steampunk
    Steampunk is a sub-genre of science fiction, fantasy, alternate history, and speculative fiction that came into prominence during the 1980s and early 1990s. Steampunk involves a setting where steam power is still widely used—usually Victorian era Britain or "Wild West"-era United...

  • Suspension of disbelief
    Suspension of disbelief
    Suspension of disbelief or "willing suspension of disbelief" is a formula for justifying the use of fantastic or non-realistic elements in literary works of fiction...

External links

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