Non-Fiction Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How to Use It

Do you know the meaning of non-fiction? Don’t worry — we’re here to help. Read on to discover the definition of non-fiction, its origin, and more.

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Do you know what non-fiction means and how it differs from fiction? The Word Counter has got you covered.

In this post, you’ll find the complete definition of the term non-fiction, its origin, examples, and more. By the end of this article, you should have a clear understanding of what non-fiction means and feel comfortable using it in a sentence. 

Let’s get started. 

What Is the Definition of Non-Fiction?  

According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, non-fiction is defined as writing that is based around facts and real events rather than stories of make-believe or that have been invented. 

Plainly speaking, non-fiction refers to literature that, regardless of the topic at hand, has one true goal: to provide information.

As opposed to a story of fiction with its tales of the author’s imagination and creativity, all non-fiction works should be based on facts. In addition, non-fiction works should be based on conclusions from research or expertise, amongst many other things.

What Are the Key Characteristics of Non-Fiction?

You will quickly notice that there are several important traits of all non-fiction works. The most important of all is that all stories told in non-fiction works must be true.

The writing must use real events, people, and places. Below we have listed a few key characteristics of non-fiction works:

  • Peer/Academic-reviewed publishers
  • Citations, Index, and bibliographies
  • Real events, periods, and people
  • Essays, journals, autobiographies, memoirs, documentaries, letters, etc.
  • Extension activities, mini-lessons, Venn diagrams,, and/or anchor charts
  • An authentic narrative

What Is the Etymology of Non-Fiction?

The origin — or “etymology” — of non-fiction dates back to 1866 and was first reportedly used by the Boston Public Library. It should be noted that it really didn’t gain popularity until well after 1900.

While the 1900s in terms of history is not that far off of a time, the origin of non-fiction does date back to a later date. The prefix “non-” may not have been combined with fiction until 1900, but the noun fiction dates back to the early 15c.

The noun fiction is derived from the Old French ficcion and directly from Latin fictionem, all of which date back to 13c. 

With the earliest known use of the term dating back to the 1900s, the earliest works of non-fiction can be traced way back to ancient Bronze Age civilizations

How to Properly Use Non-Fiction in a Sentence

Try using the noun non-fiction (pronounced nän-ˈfik-shnəl) in a sentence today! 

Non-fiction can be used in so many different ways in the English language. By using words in a sentence, we can better memorize their definitions.

Below are a variety of different examples of the proper usage of non-fiction in a sentence:

I do hope you are a fan of non-fiction, as our next few classes consist solely of history and science.

Everything in my diary is nonfiction as it narrates my life.

Were you aware that Jessica’s favorite type of non-fiction books happen to be biographies on historical figures?

You claim this book is a non-fiction title, but where is the author’s evidence to prove their points?

Being a big fan of the Dewey Decimal System, I am always happy to browse the non-fiction section of my local library.

To be considered nonfiction, your story has to be about a true story.

Do you have any feedback on my nonfiction novella?

I don’t mean to keep you in suspense, but the nonfiction true crime books you’ve been reading won’t restock for at least another month.

In today’s society you can write non-fiction or fiction books, and if you know what you are doing can sell them on Amazon or even eBay.

I absolutely love creative nonfiction stories!

I had a dream to compile a definitive list of all what I believe to be the best non-fiction children’s books.

Various Works of Non-Fiction

By definition, non-fiction is any writing that represents factual accounts of current or even past events, and many readers may think of non-fiction as a genre all in itself. 

That being said, if you were to take a good look through your local book store, you would see dozens of sections devoted to these fact-based titles. To help you better understand the meaning of non-fiction we have included a list of some of the most common genres of non-fiction. 

  • History – writing genre that describes true historical events 
  • Philosophy – analyzes concepts such as freedom and ethics while inviting readers to think about those very topics.
  • Religion and Spirituality – some are theory-based books, while others are used to describe the author’s personal experiences, lastly can also be self-help books.
  • Journalism – most notably newspaper and magazine articles
  • How-tos – guides or manuals used to help the reader understand the steps required to obtain a certain task.
  • Science – mainly used to describe academic research, some of which include technical information.
  • Social and Political Sciences – comments on and analyzes a particular structure or attribute in society. Some authors tend to use anecdotal evidence, while others base their writings on academic papers.
  • Essays – this genre of work is oftentimes introspective and personal. 
  • Economics and Business – economic books describe topics such as interest rates, stock market movement, or consumer pricing to help the reader better grasp how econ truly works. Whereas business books oftentimes serve as a guide to others about entrepreneurship or management.


At the end of the day, any media content or document that presents only the truth regarding information, people, or events will always be non-fiction. 

In conclusion, the term non-fiction refers to literature based on facts. 


  1. Nonfiction Definition & Meaning | 
  2. NON-FICTION | definition | The Cambridge English Dictionary
  3. Bronze Age | Definition, History, Inventions, Tools, & Facts | Britannica