Retcon Meaning: Here’s What It Means and How To Use It

Have you ever been confused about the word retcon? Read here for the complete guide to the word retcon so you never have to wonder again.

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Retcon is one of those words that sounds very interesting, but many people don’t understand its true meaning. You have probably heard the word retcon used before, but maybe you were unsure of its meaning and missed out on what somebody was trying to say. 

Well, wonder no longer. Today’s word of the day is retcon. After reading this complete guide to the word retcon, your vocabulary toolbox will be equipped with retcon’s definitions, etymology, history, synonyms, and more. 

What Is the Definition of Retcon?

Retcon is actually derived from two different English words. The phrase “retroactive continuity” was compressed into the abbreviation retcon to save time and energy while speaking or writing. “Ret” is short for retroactive, and “con” is short for continuity. 

Here are the definitions of retcon according to the dictionary: 

  • As a noun, it means changing an existing fictional narrative by introducing new information in later works. This information recontextualizes previously established facts.
  • As a verb, this word means to apply a retcon to something, such as a character, event, or story.

Providing retroactive continuity simply means providing new context or information to a character or story after the fact, shedding new light, changing how the story is perceived, or even changing the story’s meaning altogether. 

Some people might misuse the term retcon, referring to a reinterpretation of a story or a reboot that changes some of the original facts, characters, or events. But this would be an incorrect usage of the term. 

Retcon specifically refers to the divulgence of new information to an already existing story. This might come as a backstory about a character, telling the same storyline from a different character’s perspective, or introducing a more significant plot point or motivation.

What Is the History of the Term Retcon?

The concept of retroactive continuity has been in existence for quite some time. One of the earliest iterations of the technique came in the early 20th century from none other than Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author of the famous Sherlock Holmes series. 

Doyle had decided he was ready to move on from Holmes to other literary endeavors, so he killed off Holmes in a famous duel with his nemesis Moriarty. Fans of the series were furious. After a lot of backlash, Doyle yielded to the fans and wrote another book, in which it was revealed that Holmes’ death had been faked and that he was still alive. 

Still, the term “retroactive continuity” was not coined until decades later. E. Frank Tupper is thought to be the inventor of the phrase in his 1973 book The Theology of Wolfhart Pannenberg. 

By the 1980s, the phrase had become popular and widely used amongst comic book fans. By 1989, the fandom had shortened the phrase to the new word “retcon.” Since then, the word has gained immense popularity, and it is now used in a variety of different storytelling contexts. Retcon has truly become a widely used literary device, and there are countless examples of it in popular media today that make for dynamic and engaging storytelling.

Examples of the Word Retcon in a Sentence

Here are some examples of how the word retcon might be used in context:

In my favorite Superman arc, the writers did a huge retcon that completely changed my perspective on the story.

Both Marvel and DC Comics have used the concept of the multiverse as a retcon to unify all of the different reboots of their various characters into the same timeline and canon.

Spider-Man and The X-Men have been retconned so many times that I have difficulty remembering what the original story even was.

The Star Wars prequels are a great retcon. Even though they weren’t the best movies, it was fun to see the story of how Darth Vader became Darth Vader.

What Are Examples of Popular Retcons?

In recent years, one of the more popular retcons has been the musical Wicked. The musical provides a detailed retcon of the famous story The Wizard of Oz

By following The Wicked Witch of the West instead of Dorothy, the musical provides new context to the story that was previously unseen. Still, it does so without changing the events or canon of the original. Many people have fallen in love with the new plotlines presented in the musical, and Wicked is currently the fifth longest-running show on Broadway. 

Another incredibly popular retcon was in the famous original Star Wars trilogy. Spoiler Alert: In the first film, A New Hope, Obi-wan tells Luke that his father was killed by Darth Vader. But in the following movie, The Empire Strikes Back, George Lucas seemingly merged the two characters, making for one of the most significant plot twists in cinematic history, when Darth Vader said those famous words: “No, I am your father.”

But that isn’t the only famous retcon in the Star Wars universe. In the recent Star Wars movies, it was revealed that Emperor Palpatine did not die in The Return of the Jedi. In the movie, The Rise of Skywalker, the famous Palpatine returns and plays a major role. The retcon seems to be a popular storytelling tool in the Star Wars universe. 

A Satisfying Ending

The word retcon is a great example of how new words are added to language constantly. Over several decades, the word retcon became widely used and developed different forms. Today, in part because of the development of the word, the retcon technique is well-understood and used in television series, soap operas, movies, video games, and everything in between. 

Now you know everything you need to know about the word retcon. Use it in your conversation, your writing, and more. Come back to this article if you ever need a refresher on definitions or common examples of retcon in action.


  1. Retcon Definition & Meaning | 
  2. Retcon | Cambridge English Dictionary 
  3. Retcon English Definition and Meaning |