What does retcon mean?

Retroactively change

To retcon a story means to retroactively add, edit, or eliminate a pre-existing plot point in service of the story's current narrative. The word retcon is short for "retroactive continuity," and while it is most often used in relation to American superhero comics and their ever-fluid, decades-long narratives, the word is now also used more generally (perhaps because geek culture now permeates pop culture).

Most notably, retcon has entered the world of politics, in which politicians who attempt to walk back previous statements or explain prior actions in light of new facts may be accused of retconning the past. Retcons also occur on TV shows (think the addition of Dawn on "Buffy the Vampire Slayer") in movies (think Letty's return in the Fast and Furious franchise) and in books (think Sherlock Holmes surviving "The Final Problem").

In the future, the general public will likely become even more familiar with the term retcon, as the Marvel Cinematic Universe enters an era in which retconning becomes an attractive way to explain away inevitable continuity errors and integrate the popular Fantastic Four and X-Men properties into the franchise.


I really wish they hadn't given Spider-Man organic web shooters. They're just gross
Ah, I'm sure they'll retcon them back out eventually

One of many scenes that George Lucas retconned into Star Wars

Related Slang


Updated October 13, 2020

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