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Definition of autobiography

Examples of autobiography in a sentence.

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'autobiography.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

auto- + biography , perhaps after German Autobiographie

1797, in the meaning defined above

Phrases Containing autobiography

  • semi - autobiography

Dictionary Entries Near autobiography


Cite this Entry

“Autobiography.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary , Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/autobiography. Accessed 29 May. 2024.

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Kids definition of autobiography, more from merriam-webster on autobiography.

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Nglish: Translation of autobiography for Spanish Speakers

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Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about autobiography

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[ aw-t uh -bahy- og -r uh -fee , -bee- , aw-toh- ]

  • a history of a person's life written or told by that person.

/ ˌɔːtəʊbaɪˈɒɡrəfɪ; ˌɔːtəbaɪ- /

  • an account of a person's life written or otherwise recorded by that person
  • A literary work about the writer's own life. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin and Isak Dinesen's Out of Africa are autobiographical.

Discover More

Derived forms.

  • ˌautobiˈographer , noun

Other Words From

  • auto·bi·ogra·pher noun

Word History and Origins

Origin of autobiography 1

Example Sentences

In so doing, she gave us an autobiography that has held up for more than a century.

His handwritten autobiography reawakens in Lee a longing to know her motherland.

His elocution, perfected on stage and evident in television and film, make X’s autobiography an easy yet informative listen.

The book is not so much an autobiography of Hastings — or even Netflix’s origin story.

By contrast, Shing-Tung Yau says in his autobiography that the Calabi-Yau manifold was given its name by other people eight years after he proved its existence, which Eugenio Calabi had conjectured some 20 years before that.

Glow: The Autobiography of Rick JamesRick James David Ritz (Atria Books) Where to begin?

Hulanicki was the subject of a 2009 documentary, Beyond Biba, based on her 2007 autobiography From A to Biba.

And it was also during the phase of the higher autobiography.

“Nighttime was the worst,” Bennett wrote in his autobiography.

Then I picked up a book that shredded my facile preconceptions—Hard Stuff: The Autobiography of Mayor Coleman Young.

No; her parents had but small place in that dramatic autobiography that Daphne was now constructing for herself.

His collected works, with autobiography, were published in 1865 under the editorship of Charles Hawkins.

But there is one point about the book that deserves some considering, its credibility as autobiography.

I thought you were anxious for leisure to complete your autobiography.

The smallest fragment of a genuine autobiography seems to me valuable for the student of past epochs.

Related Words

  • Literary Terms
  • Autobiography
  • Definition & Examples
  • When & How to Write Autobiography

I. What is Autobiography?

An autobiography is a self-written life story.


It is different from a  biography , which is the life story of a person written by someone else. Some people may have their life story written by another person because they don’t believe they can write well, but they are still considered an author because they are providing the information. Reading autobiographies may be more interesting than biographies because you are reading the thoughts of the person instead of someone else’s interpretation.

II. Examples of Autobiography

One of the United States’ forefathers wrote prolifically (that means a lot!) about news, life, and common sense. His readings, quotes, and advice are still used today, and his face is on the $100 bill. Benjamin Franklin’s good advice is still used through his sayings, such as “We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid.” He’s also the one who penned the saying that’s seen all over many schools: “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” His autobiography is full of his adventures , philosophy about life, and his wisdom. His autobiography shows us how much he valued education through his anecdotes (stories) of his constant attempts to learn and improve himself. He also covers his many ideas on his inventions and his thoughts as he worked with others in helping the United States become free from England.

III. Types of Autobiography

There are many types of autobiographies. Authors must decide what purpose they have for writing about their lives, and then they can choose the format that would best tell their story. Most of these types all share common goals: helping themselves face an issue by writing it down, helping others overcome similar events, or simply telling their story.

a. Full autobiography (traditional):

This would be the complete life story, starting from birth through childhood, young adulthood, and up to the present time at which the book is being written. Authors might choose this if their whole lives were very different from others and could be considered interesting.

There are many types of memoirs – place, time, philosophic (their theory on life), occupational, etc. A memoir is a snapshot of a person’s life. It focuses on one specific part that stands out as a learning experience or worth sharing.

c. Psychological illness

People who have suffered mental illness of any kind find it therapeutic to write down their thoughts. Therapists are specialists who listen to people’s problems and help them feel better, but many people find writing down their story is also helpful.

d. Confession

Just as people share a psychological illness, people who have done something very wrong may find it helps to write down and share their story. Sharing the story may make one feel he or she is making amends (making things right), or perhaps hopes that others will learn and avoid the same mistake.

e. Spiritual

Spiritual and religious experiences are very personal . However, many people feel that it’s their duty and honor to share these stories. They may hope to pull others into their beliefs or simply improve others’ lives.

f. Overcoming adversity

Unfortunately, many people do not have happy, shining lives. Terrible events such as robberies, assaults, kidnappings, murders, horrific accidents, and life-threatening illnesses are common in some lives. Sharing the story can inspire others while also helping the person express deep emotions to heal.

IV. The Importance of Autobiography

Autobiographies are an important part of history. Being able to read the person’s own ideas and life stories is getting the first-person story versus the third-person (he-said/she-said) version. In journalism, reporters go to the source to get an accurate account of an event. The same is true when it comes to life stories. Reading the story from a second or third source will not be as reliable. The writer may be incorrectly explaining and describing the person’s life events.

Autobiographies are also important because they allow other people in similar circumstances realize that they are not alone. They can be inspiring for those who are facing problems in their lives. For the author, writing the autobiography allows them to heal as they express their feelings and opinions. Autobiographies are also an important part of history.

V. Examples of Autobiography in Literature

A popular autobiography that has lasted almost 100 years is that of Helen Keller. Her life story has been made into numerous movies and plays. Her teacher, Anne Sullivan, has also had her life story written and televised multiple times. Students today still read and learn about this young girl who went blind and deaf at 19 months of age, causing her to also lose her ability to learn to speak. Sullivan’s entrance into Helen’s life when the girl was seven was the turning point. She learned braille and soon became an activist for helping blind and deaf people across the nation. She died in 1968, but her autobiography is still helping others.

Even in the days before my teacher came, I used to feel along the square stiff boxwood hedges, and, guided by the sense of smell, would find the first violets and lilies. There, too, after a fit of temper, I went to find comfort and to hide my hot face in the cool leaves and grass. What joy it was to lose myself in that garden of flowers, to wander happily from spot to spot, until, coming suddenly upon a beautiful vine, I recognized it by its leaves and blossoms, and knew it was the vine which covered the tumble-down summer-house at the farther end of the garden! (Keller).

An autobiography that many middle and high school students read every year is “Night” by Elie Wiesel. His story is also a memoir, covering his teen years as he and his family went from the comfort of their own home to being forced into a Jewish ghetto with other families, before ending up in a Nazi prison camp. His book is not that long, but the details and description he uses brings to life the horrors of Hitler’s reign of terror in Germany during World War II. Students also read “The Diary of Anne Frank,” another type of autobiography that shows a young Jewish girl’s daily life while hiding from the Nazis to her eventual capture and death in a German camp. Both books are meant to remind us to not be indifferent to the world’s suffering and to not allow hate to take over.

“The people were saying, “The Red Army is advancing with giant strides…Hitler will not be able to harm us, even if he wants to…” Yes, we even doubted his resolve to exterminate us. Annihilate an entire people? Wipe out a population dispersed throughout so many nations? So many millions of people! By what means? In the middle of the twentieth century! And thus my elders concerned themselves with all manner of things—strategy, diplomacy, politics, and Zionism—but not with their own fate. Even Moishe the Beadle had fallen silent. He was weary of talking. He would drift through synagogue or through the streets, hunched over, eyes cast down, avoiding people’s gaze. In those days it was still possible to buy emigration certificates to Palestine. I had asked my father to sell everything, to liquidate everything, and to leave” (Wiesel 8).  

VI. Examples of Autobiography in Pop Culture

One example of an autobiography that was a hit in the movie theaters is “American Sniper,” the story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. According to an article in the Dallas, Texas, magazine D, Kyle donated all the proceeds from the film to veterans and their families. He had a story to tell, and he used it to help others. His story is a memoir, focusing on a specific time period of his life when he was overseas in the military.

An autobiography by a young Olympian is “Grace, Gold and Glory: My Leap of Faith” by Gabrielle (Gabby) Douglas. She had a writer, Michelle Burford, help her in writing her autobiography. This is common for those who have a story to tell but may not have the words to express it well. Gabby was the darling of the 2012 Olympics, winning gold medals for the U.S. in gymnastics along with being the All-Around Gold Medal winner, the first African-American to do so. Many young athletes see her as an inspiration. Her story also became a television movie, “The Gabby Douglas Story.”

VII. Related Terms

The life story of one person written by another. The purpose may to be highlight an event or person in a way to help the public learn a lesson, feel inspired, or to realize that they are not alone in their circumstance. Biographies are also a way to share history. Historic and famous people may have their biographies written by many authors who research their lives years after they have died.

VIII. Conclusion

Autobiographies are a way for people to share stories that may educate, inform, persuade, or inspire others. Many people find writing their stories to be therapeutic, healing them beyond what any counseling might do or as a part of the counseling. Autobiographies are also a way to keep history alive by allowing people in the present learn about those who lived in the past. In the future, people can learn a lot about our present culture by reading autobiographies by people of today.

List of Terms

  • Alliteration
  • Amplification
  • Anachronism
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Antonomasia
  • APA Citation
  • Aposiopesis
  • Bildungsroman
  • Characterization
  • Circumlocution
  • Cliffhanger
  • Comic Relief
  • Connotation
  • Deus ex machina
  • Deuteragonist
  • Doppelganger
  • Double Entendre
  • Dramatic irony
  • Equivocation
  • Extended Metaphor
  • Figures of Speech
  • Flash-forward
  • Foreshadowing
  • Intertextuality
  • Juxtaposition
  • Literary Device
  • Malapropism
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Parallelism
  • Pathetic Fallacy
  • Personification
  • Point of View
  • Polysyndeton
  • Protagonist
  • Red Herring
  • Rhetorical Device
  • Rhetorical Question
  • Science Fiction
  • Self-Fulfilling Prophecy
  • Synesthesia
  • Turning Point
  • Understatement
  • Urban Legend
  • Verisimilitude
  • Essay Guide
  • Cite This Website


What is autobiography definition, usage, and literary examples, autobiography definition.

An  autobiography  (awe-tow-bye-AWE-gruh-fee) is a self-written  biography . The author writes about all or a portion of their own life to share their experience, frame it in a larger cultural or historical context, and/or inform and entertain the reader.

Autobiographies have been a popular literary genre for centuries. The first Western autobiography is attributed to Saint Augustine of Hippo for his 13-book work titled  Confessions , written between 397 and 400 CE. Some autobiographies are a straightforward narrative that recollects a linear chain of events as they unfolded. The genre has expanded and evolved to include different approaches to the form.

The word  autobiography  comes from the Ancient Greek  auto  (“self”) +  bios  (“life”) +  graphein  (“to write”) = “a self-written life.” It is also known as autography .

The History of Autobiography

Scholars regard Augustine’s  Confessions  as the first Western autobiography. Other autobiographical works from antiquity include Jewish historian Flavius Josephus’s  Vita  (circa 99 CE) and Greek scholar Libanius’s  Oration I  (374 CE). Works of this kind were called apologias, which essentially means “in my defense.” Writers approached these works not as acts of self-documentation but as self-defense. They represented a way to explain and provide rationale for their life, work, and escapades. There was also less focus on their emotional lives.

The Book of Margery Kempe , written in 1438 by an English Christian mystic, is the earliest known autobiography in English. (Though it didn’t see full publication until the 20th century.) Other early English-language biographies of note include:

  • Lord Herbert of Cherbury’s 1764 memoirs
  • John Bunyan’s  Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners  in 1666
  • Jarena Lee’s  The Life and Religious Experience of Jarena Lee  (the first autobiography of an African American woman)

Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s  Confessions was published in 1782. It paved the way for the more thoughtful, emotionally centered autobiographies seen today. Autobiography as a literary genre emerged a few years later, when British scholar William Taylor first used the term to describe a self-written biography. He did so disparagingly, suggesting the form was  pedantic . In 1809, English Romantic poet Robert Southey used the term more seriously to describe self-written biographies.

Starting in the 20th century, more young people started writing autobiographies. Perhaps the most famous example is Anne Frank’s  The Diary of a Young Girl , about her time hiding from the Nazis in an Amsterdam attic. The 21st century saw an increase in autobiographical essay collections and memoirs by younger celebrities, including:

  • Anna Kendrick
  • Mindy Kaling
  • Gabourey Sidibe
  • Mike Birbiglia
  • Lena Dunham
  • Chelsea Handler

Autobiographies are not immune to controversy. One notable scandal involved author James Frey’s  A Million Little Pieces . Originally billed as a memoir, evidence later emerged that Frey invented key parts of the story. This example underscores how easily authors can cross over into autofiction—fictional autobiography—and how seriously readers take authors’ responsibility to accurately and honestly market their books.

Types of Autobiographies

There are a few different types of self-written works that qualify as autobiography.

Standard Autobiographies

In the most traditional form, authors recount their life or specific formative events from their life. This approach often utilizes a chronological format of events, but it doesn’t necessarily have to. An author’s approach might include a framing device such as flashbacks, in which they move from the present to the past as they remember their lives. For example, Broadway star Patti LuPone’s self-titled autobiography begins on the opening night of  Gypsy  in 2004 before moving back in time to LuPone’s childhood. An author could take a more stream-of-consciousness style, in which one memory links to another by a common theme. Irish writer Seán O’Casey narrates his six-volume  Autobiographies  in this manner

This is a type of autobiography that is narrower in scope and focus. It places greater emphasis on particular memories, thoughts, and feelings. A standard autobiography can certainly cover some of this same ground—most do—but the memoir is more interested in individual events or defined portions of the author’s life and the emotions and lessons behind them.

Henry David Thoreau is a notable memoirist. In Walden , he reflects on his time spent living in solitude in the woods of Massachusetts and what he learned about life and nature throughout this experience. Another example is  The Year of Magical Thinking  by Joan Didion, which relates the death of her husband and its impact on her life and work. Another is  Wild  by Cheryl Strayed, wherein Strayed remembers her time hiking the Pacific Crest Trail during a period of great change in her life.


The fictionalized autobiography, or autofiction, is another type of autobiography. The author presents their story not as fact but as fiction. This method gives them considerable space to take creative license with events and characters, thereby blurring the lines between reality and fiction. The overall goal is less about the author wanting to obscure facts and make things up and more a matter of taking another tactic to delve into their experiences in service of self-discovery.  Taipei  by Tao Lin is a work of autofiction. The central character, Paul, mirrors Lin’s own life and experiences, from the literary world of New York City to his ancestral roots in Taiwan.

Spiritual Autobiographies

These autobiographies center on the author’s religious or spiritual awakening and the subsequent journey their faith has taken them on. Common elements include struggles and doubt, a life-altering conversion, periods of regression, and sharing the “message.” These all act as endorsements of the author’s faith. Augustine’s  Confessions , Paramahansa Yogananda’s  Autobiography of a Yogi , and Augusten Burroughs’s  Toil & Trouble: A Memoir  are all spiritual autobiographies.

Autobiography vs. Biography

Both autobiographies and  biographies  are records of real lives, but there is one major distinction. A person other than the book’s subject writes a biography, while the subject themselves writes an autobiography. In this way, an autobiography is essentially a biography of the self. The biographer’s job is typically more involved, entailing detailed research into the life of the subject. The autobiographer, however, is usually not burdened by this because they lived through the events they write about. They may need only to confirm dates and stories to accurately relate the pertinent details.

The Function of Autobiography

An autobiography allows the author to tell the true story of their own life. This is the reason why autobiographies have always been written by famous people. History tends to remember notable individuals for just one significant contribution or event and, even then, the public’s perception of it may be inaccurate. Writing an autobiography allows the author to share the real story and put it into the larger context of their life and times.

Most readers pick up an autobiography expecting some degree of subjectivity from the author. After all, the events chronicled happened to the author, so the writing will of course have a biased  perspective . There are advantages to this subjectivity, though. The reader gets the real story directly from the person who lived it, unvarnished by others’ opinions or erroneous historical data.

One way this subjectivity is problematic is that the author may not possess the ability to see the story they’re telling from other perspectives. For example, they may not acknowledge any hurt they caused others, dangerous behaviors they engaged in, or the “other side” of a controversial event in which there are equally valid opposing viewpoints and experiences. Any of these deficiencies can result in a somewhat skewed narrative.

Writers Known for Autobiography & Autobiography Books

  • Maya Angelou,  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings ,  Gather Together in My Name
  • Jung Chang,  Wild Swans: Three Daughters of China
  • Isak Dinesen,  Out of Africa ,  Shadows on the Grass
  • Carrie Fisher,  Wishful Drinking ,  Shockaholic
  • Anne Frank,  The Diary of a Young Girl
  • Ernest Hemingway,  A Moveable Feast
  • Karl Ove Knausgård,  My Struggle
  • Frank McCourt,  Angela’s Ashes
  • Anaïs Nin,  The Diaries of Anaïs Nin
  • Marcel Proust,  Remembrance of Things Past
  • Patti Smith,  Just Kids ,  M Train
  • Mark Twain, The Autobiography of Mark Twain
  • Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  • Malcolm X, The Autobiography of Malcolm X
  • Agatha Christie, Agatha Christie: An Autobiography
  • Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom
  • Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhi: An Autobiography 

Examples of Autobiographies

1. Maya Angelou,  I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

Angelou’s autobiography is the first installment in a seven-volume series chronicling the life of the legendary poet, teacher, actress, director, dancer, and civil rights activist. Given all those roles, it’s easy to see why Angelou’s life story makes for interesting reading.

This volume centers primarily on her early life in Stamps, Arkansas, and the devastating effects of a childhood rape. It also explores racism in the American South. It discuses the important role reading plays in helping young Maya deal with the sexual assault and pervasive prejudice in her environment.

2. Helen Keller,  The Story of My Life

Keller’s autobiography details her first 20 years, starting with the childhood illness that caused her blindness and deafness. She discusses the obstacles she had to overcome and the life-changing relationship she shared with her teacher, Anne Sullivan, who helped her learn to read and write. Keller also documents her friendships with several famous figures of her day, including Alexander Graham Bell, John Greenleaf Whittier, Oliver Wendell Holmes, and First Lady Frances Cleveland.

3. Vinh Chung,  Where the Wind Leads

Chung’s autobiography recalls the harrowing story of a Vietnamese refugee and his journey to make the American Dream his own. Born in South Vietnam, Chung comes of age in a changing political climate that eventually compels his family to flee the country. Their voyage takes them through the South China Sea, run-ins with pirates, resettlement in Arkansas, and Chung’s graduation from Harvard Medical School.

How to Write an Autobiography

Autobiography is a truly universal art form and is accessible to anyone, whether you're in high school or 100 years old. Exploring the process of writing an autobiography deserves an article in itself, but the process should include these steps:

  • Determine your "why." What lessons do you want to impart via your story, and why are they worth sharing with a broader audience?
  • Draft an autobiographical outline. It should include information about your upbringing, impactful moments throughout your life, stories of failure and success, and meaningful mentors.
  • Begin with the easiest sections. Getting started is often the greatest hurdle, so begin by writing the chapters that feel most accessible or enjoyable.
  • Write your first draft. Once you write the first chapters, it will feel easier to write the rest. Capitalize on your momentum and write a full draft.
  • Step away. As with anything, stepping away from your work will help foster fresh perspectives when you return.
  • Edit and re-write your draft. Your first draft will probably benefit from thorough revisions, as will your second draft, and maybe your third. Continue to edit and revise until it feels right.
  • Ask for help. Bring in a trusted family member or friend or professional editor to help with final edits.

Further Resources on Autobiography

ThoughtCo. shares some  important points to consider before writing an autobiography .

The Living Handbook of Narratology delves into the  history of the autobiography .

MasterClass breaks autobiography writing down into  eight basic steps .

Pen & the Pad looks at the  advantages and disadvantages of the autobiography .

Lifehack has a list of  15 autobiographies everyone should read at least once .

Related Terms

  • Frame Story
  • Point of View

autobiography what meaning


Definition of autobiography.

Autobiography is one type of biography , which tells the life story of its author, meaning it is a written record of the author’s life. Rather than being written by somebody else, an autobiography comes through the person’s own pen, in his own words. Some autobiographies are written in the form of a fictional tale; as novels or stories that closely mirror events from the author’s real life. Such stories include Charles Dickens ’ David Copperfield  and J.D Salinger’s The Catcher in The Rye . In writing about personal experience, one discovers himself. Therefore, it is not merely a collection of anecdotes – it is a revelation to the readers about the author’s self-discovery.

Difference between Autobiography and Memoir

In an autobiography, the author attempts to capture important elements of his life. He not only deals with his career, and growth as a person, he also uses emotions and facts related to family life, relationships, education, travels, sexuality, and any types of inner struggles. A memoir is a record of memories and particular events that have taken place in the author’s life. In fact, it is the telling of a story or an event from his life; an account that does not tell the full record of a life.

Six Types of Autobiography

There are six types of autobiographies:

  • Autobiography: A personal account that a person writes himself/herself.
  • Memoir : An account of one’s memory.
  • Reflective Essay : One’s thoughts about something.
  • Confession: An account of one’s wrong or right doings.
  • Monologue : An address of one’s thoughts to some audience or interlocuters.
  • Biography : An account of the life of other persons written by someone else.

Importance of Autobiography

Autobiography is a significant genre in literature. Its significance or importance lies in authenticity, veracity, and personal testimonies. The reason is that people write about challenges they encounter in their life and the ways to tackle them. This shows the veracity and authenticity that is required of a piece of writing to make it eloquent, persuasive, and convincing.

Examples of Autobiography in Literature

Example #1:  the box: tales from the darkroom by gunter grass.

A noble laureate and novelist, Gunter Grass , has shown a new perspective of self-examination by mixing up his quilt of fictionalized approach in his autobiographical book, “The Box: Tales from the Darkroom.” Adopting the individual point of view of each of his children, Grass narrates what his children think about him as their father and a writer. Though it is really an experimental approach, due to Grass’ linguistic creativity and dexterity, it gains an enthralling momentum.

Example #2:  The Story of My Life by Helen Keller

In her autobiography, The Story of My Life , Helen Keller recounts her first twenty years, beginning with the events of the childhood illness that left her deaf and blind. In her childhood, a writer sent her a letter and prophesied, “Someday you will write a great story out of your own head that will be a comfort and help to many.”

In this book, Keller mentions prominent historical personalities, such as Alexander Graham Bell, whom she met at the age of six, and with whom she remained friends for several years. Keller paid a visit to John Greenleaf Whittier , a famous American poet, and shared correspondence with other eminent figures, including Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Mrs. Grover Cleveland. Generally, Keller’s autobiography is about overcoming great obstacles through hard work and pain.

Example #3:  Self Portraits: Fictions by Frederic Tuten

In his autobiography, “Self Portraits: Fictions ,” Frederic Tuten has combined the fringes of romantic life with reality. Like postmodern writers, such as Jorge Luis Borges, and Italo Calvino, the stories of Tuten skip between truth and imagination, time and place, without warning. He has done the same with his autobiography, where readers are eager to move through fanciful stories about train rides, circus bears, and secrets to a happy marriage; all of which give readers glimpses of the real man.

Example #4:  My Prizes by Thomas Bernhard

Reliving the success of his literary career through the lens of the many prizes he has received, Thomas Bernhard presents a sarcastic commentary in his autobiography, “My Prizes.” Bernhard, in fact, has taken a few things too seriously. Rather, he has viewed his life as a farcical theatrical drama unfolding around him. Although Bernhard is happy with the lifestyle and prestige of being an author, his blasé attitude and scathing wit make this recollection more charmingly dissident and hilarious.

Example #5:  The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin

“The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin ” is written by one of the founding fathers of the United States. This book reveals Franklin’s youth, his ideas, and his days of adversity and prosperity. He is one of the best examples of living the American dream – sharing the idea that one can gain financial independence, and reach a prosperous life through hard work.

Through autobiography, authors can speak directly to their readers, and to their descendants. The function of the autobiography is to leave a legacy for its readers. By writing an autobiography, the individual shares his triumphs and defeats, and lessons learned, allowing readers to relate and feel motivated by inspirational stories. Life stories bridge the gap between peoples of differing ages and backgrounds, forging connections between old and new generations.

Synonyms of Autobiography

The following words are close synonyms of autobiography such as life story, personal account, personal history, diary, journal, biography, or memoir.

Related posts:

  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X

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autobiography what meaning

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Definition of autobiography noun from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary


  • In his autobiography, he recalls the poverty he grew up in.
  • in an/​the autobiography

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autobiography what meaning

Think About Your Childhood

You may not have had the most interesting childhood in the world, but everyone has had a few memorable experiences. Highlight the best parts when you can. If you live in a big city, for instance, you should realize that many people who grew up in the country have never ridden a subway, walked to school, ridden in a taxi, or walked to a store a few blocks away.

On the other hand, if you grew up in the country you should consider that many people who grew up in the suburbs or inner city have never eaten food straight from a garden, camped in their backyards, fed chickens on a working farm, watched their parents canning food, or been to a county fair or a small-town festival.

Something about your childhood will always seem unique to others. You just have to step outside your life for a moment and address the readers as if they knew nothing about your region and culture. Pick moments that will best illustrate the goal of your narrative, and symbolism within your life.

Consider Your Culture

Your culture is your overall way of life , including the customs that come from your family's values and beliefs. Culture includes the holidays you observe, the customs you practice, the foods you eat, the clothes you wear, the games you play, the special phrases you use, the language you speak, and the rituals you practice.

As you write your autobiography, think about the ways that your family celebrated or observed certain days, events, and months, and tell your audience about special moments. Consider these questions:

  • What was the most special gift you ever received? What was the event or occasion surrounding that gift?
  • Is there a certain food that you identify with a certain day of the year?
  • Is there an outfit that you wear only during a special event?

Think honestly about your experiences, too. Don't just focus on the best parts of your memories; think about the details within those times. While Christmas morning may be a magical memory, you might also consider the scene around you. Include details like your mother making breakfast, your father spilling his coffee, someone upset over relatives coming into town, and other small details like that. Understanding the full experience of positives and negatives helps you paint a better picture for the reader and lead to a stronger and more interesting narrative. Learn to tie together all the interesting elements of your life story and craft them into an engaging essay.

Establish the Theme

Once you have taken a look at your own life from an outsider’s point of view, you will be able to select the most interesting elements from your notes to establish a theme. What was the most interesting thing you came up with in your research? Was it the history of your family and your region? Here is an example of how you can turn that into a theme:

"Today, the plains and low hills of southeastern Ohio make the perfect setting for large cracker box-shaped farmhouses surrounded by miles of corn rows. Many of the farming families in this region descended from the Irish settlers who came rolling in on covered wagons in the 1830s to find work building canals and railways. My ancestors were among those settlers."

A little bit of research can make your own personal story come to life as a part of history, and historical details can help a reader better understand your unique situation. In the body of your narrative, you can explain how your family’s favorite meals, holiday celebrations, and work habits relate to Ohio history.

One Day as a Theme

You also can take an ordinary day in your life and turn it into a theme. Think about the routines you followed as a child and as an adult. Even a mundane activity like household chores can be a source of inspiration.

For example, if you grew up on a farm, you know the difference between the smell of hay and wheat, and certainly that of pig manure and cow manure—because you had to shovel one or all of these at some point. City people probably don’t even know there is a difference. Describing the subtle differences of each and comparing the scents to other scents can help the reader imagine the situation more clearly.

If you grew up in the city, you how the personality of the city changes from day to night because you probably had to walk to most places. You know the electricity-charged atmosphere of the daylight hours when the streets bustle with people and the mystery of the night when the shops are closed and the streets are quiet.

Think about the smells and sounds you experienced as you went through an ordinary day and explain how that day relates to your life experience in your county or your city:

"Most people don’t think of spiders when they bite into a tomato, but I do. Growing up in southern Ohio, I spent many summer afternoons picking baskets of tomatoes that would be canned or frozen and preserved for cold winter’s dinners. I loved the results of my labors, but I’ll never forget the sight of the enormous, black and white, scary-looking spiders that lived in the plants and created zigzag designs on their webs. In fact, those spiders, with their artistic web creations, inspired my interest in bugs and shaped my career in science."

One Event as a Theme

Perhaps one event or one day of your life made such a big impact that it could be used as a theme. The end or beginning of the life of another can affect our thoughts and actions for a long time:

"I was 12 years old when my mother passed away. By the time I was 15, I had become an expert in dodging bill collectors, recycling hand-me-down jeans, and stretching a single meal’s worth of ground beef into two family dinners. Although I was a child when I lost my mother, I was never able to mourn or to let myself become too absorbed in thoughts of personal loss. The fortitude I developed at a young age was the driving force that would see me through many other challenges."

Writing the Essay

Whether you determine that your life story is best summed up by a single event, a single characteristic, or a single day, you can use that one element as a theme . You will define this theme in your  introductory paragraph .

Create an outline with several events or activities that relate back to your central theme and turn those into subtopics (body paragraphs) of your story. Finally, tie up all your experiences in a summary that restates and explains the overriding theme of your life. 

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What is an Autobiography? Definition, Elements, and Writing Tips

POSTED ON Oct 1, 2023

Audrey Hirschberger

Written by Audrey Hirschberger

What is an autobiography, and how do you define autobiography, exactly? If you’re hoping to write an autobiography, it’s an important thing to know. After all, you wouldn’t want to mislabel your book.

What sets an autobiography apart from a memoir or a biography? And what type of writing is most similar to an autobiography? Should you even write one? How? Today we will be discussing all things autobiographical, so you can learn what an autobiography is, what sets it apart, and how to write one of your own – should you so choose. 

But before we get into writing tips, we must first define autobiography. So what is an autobiography, precisely? 

Need A Nonfiction Book Outline?

This Guide to Autobiographies Contains Information On:

What is an autobiography: autobiography meaning defined.

What is an autobiography? It’s a firsthand recounting of an author’s own life. So, if you were to write an autobiography, you would be writing a true retelling of your own life events. 

Autobiography cannot be bound to only one type of work. What an autobiography is has more to do with the contents than the format. For example, autobiographical works can include letters, diaries, journals, or books – and may not have even been meant for publication. 

An autobiography is what many celebrities, government officials, and important social figures sit down to write at the end of their lives or distinguished careers. 

Of course, the work doesn’t have to cover your whole life. You can absolutely write an autobiography in your 20s or 30s if you’ve lived through events worth sharing!

If an autobiography doesn’t cover the entire lifespan of the author, it can start to get confused with another genre of writing. So what’s an autobiography most similar to? And how can you tell it apart from other genres of writing? Let’s dive into the details. 

What type of writing is most similar to an autobiography?

A memoir is undoubtedly what type of writing is most similar to an autobiography. So what is the difference between an autobiography vs memoir ?

Simply put, a memoir is a book that an author writes about their own life with the intention of communicating a lesson or message to the reader. It doesn’t need to be written in chronological order, and only contains pieces of the author’s life story. 

An autobiography, on the other hand, is the author’s life story from birth to present, and it’s much less concerned with theme than it is with communicating a “highlight reel” of the author’s biggest life events. 

In addition to memoirs, there is also some confusion between autobiography vs biography . A biography is a true story about someone’s life, but it is not about the author’s life. 

Is an autobiography always nonfiction?

When many people define autobiography, they say it is a true or “nonfiction” telling of an author’s life – but that’s not always the case.

There is actually such a thing as autobiographical fiction .

Autobiographical fiction refers to a story that is based on fact and inspired by the author’s actual experiences…but has made-up characters or events. Any element in the story can be embellished upon or fabricated. 

Even the information in a standard “nonfiction” autobiography should be taken with a grain of salt. After all, anything written from the author’s perspective may contain certain biases, distortions, or unconscious omissions within the text. 

So if being nonfiction isn’t a defining characteristic of an autobiography, what is an autobiography defined by? 

The key elements of an autobiography

What’s an autobiography like from cover to cover? It should contain these key elements:

  • A personal narrative : It is a firsthand account of the author's life experiences.
  • A chronological structure : An autobiography typically follows a chronological order, tracing the author's life from birth to present.
  • Reflection and insight : The book should contain the author's reflections, insights, and emotions about key life events.
  • Key life events : The book should highlight significant events, milestones, and challenges in the author's life.
  • Setting and context : There should be descriptions of the time period, cultural background, and environment to help the reader understand the author’s life.
  • Authenticity : The author should be honest and sincere in presenting their life story.
  • A personal perspective : An autobiography is written from the author's unique point of view.
  • A strong conclusion : The ending of the book should reflect on the author's current state or outlook.

Famous Autobiography Examples

Now that you know what an autobiography is, let’s look at some famous autobiography examples .

The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (1947)

The Diary Of Anne Frank, A Top Example For The Question: What Is An Autobiography?

Perhaps no autobiography is more famous than The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. Her diary chronicles her profound thoughts, dreams, and fears as she hides with her family in the walls during the Holocaust. 

Anne's words resonate with the enduring spirit of hope amid unimaginable darkness.

The Autobiography of Ben Franklin by Benjamin Franklin (1909)

One Of The Top Autobiographies, The Autobiography Of Ben Franklin.

Benjamin Franklin's autobiography follows Franklin’s life from humble origins to one of America's greatest forefathers. While originally intended as a collection of anecdotes for his son, this autobiography has become one of the most famous works of American literature. 

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela (1994)

One Of The Best Examples Of What An Autobiography Is, Long Walk To Freedom By Nelson Mandela

Long Walk to Freedom narrates Nelson Mandela's epic odyssey from South African prisoner to revered statesman. This masterpiece of an autobiography is a portrait of resilience against the backdrop of apartheid – and his words are a bastion for courage and human rights. 

Now you know what an autobiography is, and some examples of successful autobiographies, so it’s time to discuss what goes into actually writing one. 

Who Should Write an Autobiography?

Celebrity autobiographies are popular for a reason – the people who wrote them were already popular. 

The main purpose of an autobiography is to portray the life experiences and achievements of the author. If you haven’t made any massive achievements that people are already aware of, an autobiography might not be for you. Instead, you should learn how to write a memoir . 

After all, what’s an autobiography worth if no one reads it?

If you have made an important contribution to society, or have amassed a massive following of fans, then writing an autobiography could be a fabulous idea.

An autobiography is what allows you to claim your rightful place in history. It provides a legacy for your life, helps you to better understand your life’s journey, and can even be deeply therapeutic to write. 

But then comes the next problem: how to write an autobiography.

Tips on Writing Your Own Autobiography 

While memoirs are the books that teach life lessons, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give your autobiography meaning. The best autobiographies paint a vivid tapestry of personal growth and introspection. 

You don’t just want to tell the reader about your life – you want them to feel like they are living it with you.

And it’s not just about painting a picture with your prose. A lot of thought should go into everything from autobiography titles to page count. To get started, here are five tips for writing an autobiography:

  • Know your audience : Understand who will read your autobiography and speak to them while writing.
  • Be candid and authentic : A life seen through rose-colored glasses isn’t relatable. You should include your failures as well as your triumphs, and humanize yourself so your story resonates with your reader.
  • Do your research : Of course you know what happened in your life, but how many details do you actually remember? You may need to sift through photos, archives, and diaries – and interview people close to you. Consider adding the photos to your book. 
  • Identify key themes : Identify key events and life lessons that have shaped you. Reflect on how these themes have evolved over time.
  • Edit and edit again : Write freely first, then edit rigorously. Seek feedback from trusted individuals and consider professional editing to ensure clarity and coherence in your narrative. NO ONE writes perfectly the first time. 

So there you have it, you are well on your way to understanding (and writing) an autobiography. 

If you'd still like more guidance for writing your autobiography, you can check out our free autobiography template . We can’t wait for you to share your life story with the world. 

autobiography what meaning

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  • exercise book
  • multi-volume

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Definition of 'autobiography'

  • autobiography

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autobiography in British English

Autobiography in american english, examples of 'autobiography' in a sentence autobiography, cobuild collocations autobiography, trends of autobiography.

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autobiography noun

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Earlier version

  • autobiography in OED Second Edition (1989)

What does the noun autobiography mean?

There is one meaning in OED's entry for the noun autobiography . See ‘Meaning & use’ for definition, usage, and quotation evidence.

How common is the noun autobiography ?

How is the noun autobiography pronounced, british english, u.s. english, where does the noun autobiography come from.

Earliest known use

The earliest known use of the noun autobiography is in the late 1700s.

OED's earliest evidence for autobiography is from 1797, in the writing of William Taylor, reviewer and translator.

autobiography is formed within English, by compounding; perhaps modelled on a German lexical item.

Etymons: auto- comb. form 1 , biography n.

Nearby entries

  • autobasidium, n. 1895–
  • autobio, n. 1856–
  • autobiog, n. 1829–
  • autobiographal, adj. 1845–
  • autobiographer, n. 1807–
  • autobiographic, adj. 1818–
  • autobiographical, adj. 1807–
  • autobiographically, adv. 1822–
  • autobiographical novel, n. 1832–
  • autobiographist, n. 1820–
  • autobiography, n. 1797–
  • autobiopic, n. 1977–
  • auto body, n. 1904–
  • auto-boot, n. 1981–
  • auto-boot, v. 1984–
  • auto-booting, adj. 1983–
  • autobox, n. 1977–
  • autobracketing, n. 1985–
  • auto-burglar, n. 1884
  • autocade, n. 1924–
  • auto camp, n. 1904–

Meaning & use

The next dissertation concerns Diaries, and Self-biography . We are doubtful whether the latter word be legitimate: it is not very usual in English to employ hybrid words partly Saxon and partly Greek: yet autobiography would have seemed pedantic.
This very amusing and unique specimen of autobiography .
Geology (as Sir C. Lyell has so happily expressed it) is ‘the autobiography of the earth’.
We live in an age when men treat art as if it were meant to be a form of autobiography .
The autobiography in your letter..has pleased me a good deal.
Dent's will be pleased to hear that my Welsh book, a sort of provincial autobiography , is coming on well.
An autobiography is a book a person writes about his own life and it is usually full of all sorts of boring details.
The Cockney beauty's autobiography ..has become a surprise hit, debuting at number four in the best-seller lists.
  • story 1533– With possessive adjective or genitive. A person's account of the events of his or her life or a part of it. Cf. life story , n. , and also sense 8.
  • autography 1661– = autobiography , n. rare .
  • memoirs 1676– In plural . Autobiographical observations; reminiscences. Frequently modified by a possessive.
  • idiography a1734 Autobiography; writing about oneself. Obsolete . rare .
  • self-biography 1796– An account of the life of an individual written by himself or herself; an autobiography. Also: the genre comprising such work.
  • autobiography 1797– An account of a person's life given by himself or herself, esp. one published in book form. Also: the process of writing such an account; these…
  • reminiscence 1797– Chiefly in plural . A recollection or memory of a past fact or experience recounted to others; spec. (usually in plural ) a person's collective…
  • autobiog 1829– = autobiography , n.
  • autobio 1856– = autobiography , n.
  • auto 1881– = autobiography , n.
  • curriculum vitae 1902– A course; spec. a regular course of study or training, as at a school or university. (The recognized term in the Scottish Universities.) curriculum …
  • biodata 1947– ( plural ) biographical details, esp. summarizing a person's educational and employment history, academic career, etc.; (with singular agreement) =…
  • vita 1949– A biography, the history of a life; spec. = curriculum vitae n. at curriculum , n.
  • c.v. 1971– = curriculum vitae n. at curriculum , n.


  • ð th ee
  • ɬ rhingy ll

Some consonants can take the function of the vowel in unstressed syllables. Where necessary, a syllabic marker diacritic is used, hence <petal> /ˈpɛtl/ but <petally> /ˈpɛtl̩i/.

  • a trap, bath
  • ɑː start, palm, bath
  • ɔː thought, force
  • ᵻ (/ɪ/-/ə/)
  • ᵿ (/ʊ/-/ə/)

Other symbols

  • The symbol ˈ at the beginning of a syllable indicates that that syllable is pronounced with primary stress.
  • The symbol ˌ at the beginning of a syllable indicates that that syllable is pronounced with secondary stress.
  • Round brackets ( ) in a transcription indicate that the symbol within the brackets is optional.

View the pronunciation model here .

* /d/ also represents a 'tapped' /t/ as in <bitter>

Some consonants can take the function of the vowel in unstressed syllables. Where necessary, a syllabic marker diacritic is used, hence <petal> /ˈpɛd(ə)l/ but <petally> /ˈpɛdl̩i/.

  • i fleece, happ y
  • æ trap, bath
  • ɑ lot, palm, cloth, thought
  • ɔ cloth, thought
  • ɔr north, force
  • ə strut, comm a
  • ər nurse, lett er
  • ɛ(ə)r square
  • æ̃ sal on

Simple Text Respell

Simple text respell breaks words into syllables, separated by a hyphen. The syllable which carries the primary stress is written in capital letters. This key covers both British and U.S. English Simple Text Respell.

b, d, f, h, k, l, m, n, p, r, s, t, v, w and z have their standard English values

  • arr carry (British only)
  • a(ng) gratin
  • o lot (British only)
  • orr sorry (British only)
  • o(ng) salon

autobiography typically occurs about six times per million words in modern written English.

autobiography is in frequency band 5, which contains words occurring between 1 and 10 times per million words in modern written English. More about OED's frequency bands

Frequency of autobiography, n. , 1790–2010

* Occurrences per million words in written English

Historical frequency series are derived from Google Books Ngrams (version 2), a data set based on the Google Books corpus of several million books printed in English between 1500 and 2010.

The overall frequency for a given word is calculated by summing frequencies for the main form of the word, any plural or inflected forms, and any major spelling variations.

For sets of homographs (distinct entries that share the same word-form, e.g. mole , n.¹, mole , n.², mole , n.³, etc.), we have estimated the frequency of each homograph entry as a fraction of the total Ngrams frequency for the word-form. This may result in inaccuracies.

Smoothing has been applied to series for lower-frequency words, using a moving-average algorithm. This reduces short-term fluctuations, which may be produced by variability in the content of the Google Books corpus.

Frequency of autobiography, n. , 2017–2023

Modern frequency series are derived from a corpus of 20 billion words, covering the period from 2017 to the present. The corpus is mainly compiled from online news sources, and covers all major varieties of World English.

Smoothing has been applied to series for lower-frequency words, using a moving-average algorithm. This reduces short-term fluctuations, which may be produced by variability in the content of the corpus.

Compounds & derived words

  • autobiog , n. 1829– = autobiography, n.
  • autobiographal , adj. 1845– = autobiographical, adj.
  • autobio , n. 1856– = autobiography, n.
  • auto , n.³ 1881– = autobiography, n.

Entry history for autobiography, n.

autobiography, n. was revised in June 2011.

autobiography, n. was last modified in July 2023.

oed.com is a living text, updated every three months. Modifications may include:

  • further revisions to definitions, pronunciation, etymology, headwords, variant spellings, quotations, and dates;
  • new senses, phrases, and quotations.

Revisions and additions of this kind were last incorporated into autobiography, n. in July 2023.

Earlier versions of this entry were published in:

OED First Edition (1885)

  • Find out more

OED Second Edition (1989)

  • View autobiography in OED Second Edition

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Citation details

Factsheet for autobiography, n., browse entry.

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What is an Autobiography?

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  • Updated on  
  • Sep 6, 2021

Are you fond of writing? Then, you might have considered writing an autobiography at some point in your writing journey. An autobiography is a firsthand account of the author’s own life that provides readers with an unparalleled degree of intimacy. Read the full blog to know how to write an autobiography, the difference between an autobiography and a biography, and look at some outstanding examples of autobiographies that everyone must read at least once in their lives.

This Blog Includes:

Autobiography vs. biography vs. memoir, what to include in an autobiography, place your story order, speak in the first person, define your characters, getting the facts right, the little elements, famous autobiographies to read, important tips on writing an autobiography, what is the appropriate length for an autobiography, how to write a short autobiography.

An autobiography is a non-fiction account of a person’s life written from their own perspective by the subject. Autobiographies are a subgenre of biographies, however, unlike a standard biography, which is usually written by someone other than the subject, an autobiography is written by the subject himself/herself. Autobiographies are personal stories written by individuals about themselves. These can be true accounts of noteworthy, unique, or dramatic events. They might be tributes to famous , interesting or inspiring people in society. 

Autobiographie, biographies and memoirs are frequently available in almost every library or bookshop we visit. As a result, the readers are always confused about the difference between each of them. However, we are here to inform you that they are not the same. 

You are not alone in scratching your head, unsure of what to put in your autobiography. After all, knowing what to include and exclude from your life narrative is an important aspect of how to write an autobiography. Do you pay attention to every detail? Is it true that everyone just wants to read long stories? Isn’t it possible that your autobiography will be too long?

The Movie Trailer Method is an excellent approach to think about how to write an autobiography. Focus on what would make the cut for a movie trailer of your life when deciding what to include in your autobiography:

  • People with the most influence (like family, friends, mentors, coaches, etc.)
  • Important events (like your origin story, vacations, graduations, life turning points, life lessons)
  • Moments of emotion (When you were homeless, when you battled a life-threatening condition, or when you fell in love)
  • Suspense or drama? (Did you get accepted to Harvard ? Was your first operation a success?)

How to Start Writing Your Autobiography?

It is crucial to consider the critical aspects of an autobiography while writing one since you want a story that is not only representative of your life, but also simple to read and engaging enough that the reader will not want to put the book down. So, what should you include on your list? Here is how you may start your autobiography:

While it may be tempting to repeat a tale in the order in which you remember it, bouncing back and forth in time can be extremely confusing. It’s possible that your ideas may come out jumbled when you start pulling them out, but you must put them in the right chronological sequence. Try to keep it in order, whether you’re starting from childhood – which is the most common starting point – or having a more focused picture of a certain era of your adult life.

People expect an autobiography to be written in the first person since it is about you. When discussing events, you might use ‘I,’ ‘Me,’ or ‘Mine,’ rather than she or he. If you’re sharing a story about a key person in your life, you’ll naturally refer to them as he or she.

Even if this is a non-fiction work, it is still important for the viewer to grasp how you fit into your family and who the people around you are. You’ll need to remember the events as well as bring your characters to life. Make sure to include essential facts about a character’s personality and how they contributed to your tale.

It’s critical to build your location in order to help the audience understand who shared your trip and how they influenced what occurred to you. Where were you while all of this was going on? From major information such as where you were born or raised to minor ones such as the mouth-watering and nostalgic aroma of the Sunday roast cooking in the kitchen as you were playing with your siblings.

When discussing how to write an autobiography, it’s occasionally the tiny details that make work come alive. Telling spontaneous stories is very appropriate. Include them if they are part of your recollection and history. People aren’t simply interested in reading about important events, rather they want to learn about the individuals and what they did. Who they are, what makes them tick; and don’t be afraid to relate a tale about your background, even if you think it’s trivial. Include it if you believe it is relevant.

Here is an exciting list of some of the best-written autobiographies written by famous writers from around the world: 

  • The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
  • Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela
  • The Story of My Experiments with Truth by Mahatma Gandhi
  • The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank
  • Chronicles, Vol 1 by Bob Dylan
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • Agatha Christie: An Autobiography by Agatha Christie
  • Open: An Autobiography by Andre Agassi
  • On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King
  • A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway

Keep the following pro tips in mind now that you’re set and ready to write your draft copy:

  • Allow yourself to be vulnerable. The finest autobiographies are full of defects, weaknesses, quirks, and missteps. Allow your readers to see the genuine ‘you’.
  • Skip the sections that are boring. There’s no need to go into great detail about every meal, vehicle ride, or a tense trip to the supermarket. 
  • Keep your autobiography focused on the characters. 
  • Remember that this is YOUR tale to tell!
  • Be (or don’t be) nice to others. Keep in mind that there may be consequences or reactions if you write about people in your narrative.
  • Consider a theme to follow ! Many autobiographies are divided into sections based on a common theme. Themes run throughout the autobiography, connecting and uplifting each section.
  • Create snippets for your tale (or vignette). Each vignette is a standalone tale with a beginning, middle, and conclusion. Each story builds on the previous one. Instead of informing the reader about the experience, each vignette should be presented in rich sensory language that shows the reader the experience. 
  • Pick a tone! Your narrative (like most stories) will most likely contain a range of emotions, but pick one and stay with it.
  • Engage the readers! Always consider how you might make each part, chapter, page, paragraph, and phrase more engaging. You want to speak the truth, but it’s up to you how you say it. Suspense, tension, and mystery should all be present. Allow drama to fester until it becomes unbearable. Don’t try to fix problems or relieve tension straight away.

There are no hard and fast rules about how long an autobiography should be, but a good starting point is between 200 and 400 pages. This can help you get your book officially published or promote your self-published book by keeping it in line with what most people expect from novels in general.

A short autobiography is written in the same way as a large autobiography. You just leave out more information from the narrative. You reduced everything down to the bare necessities. Alternatively, you might pick a segment of your life, like in a memoir. This usually entails minimizing the number of characters in your book, lowering the number of events and experiences, and compressing your tale to just a few key times in your life.

We hope you understood all about Autobiography! Connect with Leverage Edu today, our trained experts will help you in choosing the right university and will guide you through the application process. 

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  • Key Differences

Know the Differences & Comparisons

Difference between Biography and Autobiography

biography vs autobiography

Both of these two presents the view of, what happened in the past where the author lived. These are non-fiction books, written in chronological order, tells a story about the person who made a significant contribution in a specific field. Many think that the two writing forms are one and the same thing, but there are noticeable difference between the two, that are presented in the given article.

Content: Biography Vs Autobiography

Comparison chart, definition of biography.

A biography also referred as ‘bio’ is a detailed account of a person’s life written or produced by another person. It gives an elaborate information regarding the birthplace, educational background, work, relationships and demise of the person concerned. It presents the subject’s intimate details about life, focusing on the highs and lows and analysing their whole personality.

A biography is usually in the written form but can also be made in other forms of a music composition or literature to film interpretation.

It is the recreation of the life of an individual composed of words by another person. The author collects every single detail about the subject and presents those facts in the biography, which are relevant and interesting, to engross the readers in the story.

Definition of Autobiography

An autobiography is the life sketch of a person written by that person himself or herself. The word auto means ‘self.’ Therefore, autobiography contains all the elements of a biography but composed or narrated by the author himself. He/She may write on their own or may hire ghostwriters to write for them.

An autobiography presents the narrator’s character sketch, the place where he is born and brought up, his education, work, life experiences, challenges, and achievements. This may include events and stories of his childhood, teenage, and adulthood.

Key Differences Between Biography and Autobiography

The difference between biography and autobiography are discussed in detail in the following points:

  • Biography is a detailed account of a person’s life written by someone else, while an autobiography is written by the subject themselves.
  • Biography can be written with (authorised) or without permission (unauthorised) from the person/heir’s concerned. Therefore, there are chances of factual mistakes in the information. On the other hand, autobiographies are self-written and therefore doesn’t require any authorization.
  • Biographies contain information that is collected over a period of time from different sources and thus, it projects a different outlook to the readers. On the other hand, autobiographies are written by the subject themselves, therefore, the writer presents the facts and his thinking in his own way, thus providing an overall narrow and biased perspective to the readers.
  • In an Autobiography, the author uses the first narrative like I, me, we, he, she, etc. This, in turn, makes an intimate connection between the author and the reader since the reader experience various aspects as if he/she is in that time period. As opposed a biography is from a third person’s view and is much less intimate.
  • The purpose of writing a biography is to introduce and inform the readers about the person and his life whereas an autobiography is written in order to express, the life experiences and achievements of the narrator.

Video: Biography Vs Autobiography

There are several autobiographies which are worth mentioning like ‘The Story of My Life’ by Helen Keller, ‘An Autobiography’ by Jawaharlal Nehru, ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’ by Anne Frank, ‘Memoirs of the Second World War’ by Winston Churchill, ‘Wings of Fire’ by A. P. J. Abdul Kalam and much more.

Examples of some famous biographies are- Tolstoy: A Russian Life by Rosamund Bartlett, His Excellency: George Washington by Joseph J. Ellis, Einstein: The Life and Times by Ronald William Clark, Biography of Walt Disney: The Inspirational Life Story of Walt Disney – The Man Behind “Disneyland” by Steve Walters, Princess Diana- A Biography Of The Princess Of Wales by Drew L. Crichton.

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autoiography vs memoir

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February 12, 2019 at 1:52 pm

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October 18, 2019 at 5:51 pm

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May 7, 2023 at 6:47 am

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Manish Bhati says

June 21, 2023 at 11:51 am

Great explanation by Surbhi S, it clears confusion between biographies and autobiographies.

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A brief history of muscles and their meaning

Michael Andor Brodeur’s “Swole” is a semiotic history that doubles as an autobiography in lifting.

What are big muscles for? They were sidelined long ago by the industrial revolution; engines drive plows and hammer steel more cheaply and less complainingly. Somehow, though, they retain an ambiguous prestige — suggesting eros and authority to some viewers, and exhibitionism and political atavism to others. To sift their meaning, or meaninglessness, Michael Andor Brodeur , a longtime music critic for The Washington Post, has written “Swole,” a semiotic history that doubles as an autobiography in lifting.

So suspect are big muscles today, Brodeur observes, that many celebrities known for their brawn make a habit of tempering its appeal with humor. An early pioneer in this self-deprecating style was Arnold Schwarzenegger . When the Whitney Museum of American Art invited him to pose on a revolving stage in 1976, he “pumped irony,” Brodeur writes, by curling a fist under his chin to evoke Rodin’s statue “The Thinker,” and in 1993 he assured the New York Times that bodybuilding couldn’t be considered a serious endeavor: “Fifty guys standing around in their little posing trunks with oil slapped on their body. Showing off and posing in front of 5,000 people. It’s a joke.”

Brodeur is in on the joke, he is quick to let his readers know. “Runnin’ wild, brother! I like it!” a man painting Brodeur’s building hails him on the book’s first page, after spotting Brodeur, age 48, pumped and dripping with sweat from a recent workout. Brodeur explains that he was wearing a “shreddy purple string tank” and “silken polyester short shorts” at the time, and writes that the compliment may have been “the sweetest thing anyone’s ever said to me.”

Part of the joke here is that Brodeur makes his living as a writer, and “writers are supposed to be soft and squishy,” as he puts it. And part is that Brodeur is gay and middle-aged. What purer tribute to his physique could there be than one from a male stranger who seems to have no romantic designs on him? Also audible is the yelp of pleasure that accompanies any happy crossing of a class barrier: Brodeur writes witty, allusive prose about an enthusiasm not today considered highbrow.

It used to be. According to Brodeur, progressive resistance training goes back to at least ancient Greece, when the athlete Milo of Croton picked up and carried a calf every day, growing by increments so much stronger that in the end he was able to shoulder the bull the calf became. From the classical sculptor Polykleitos, who set forth in a statue and in a treatise the proportions considered ideal for the human form, Brodeur traces a lineage that passes through sculptures and engravings of the mythic hero Hercules, nationalist fitness crazes of the 19th century, and celebrity strongmen of the mass-media age such as Eugen Sandow and Charles Atlas. The final flowering of the tradition came in Schwarzenegger’s phenomenal career, Tom of Finland’s buxom homoerotic cartoons and the performance wear-clad superheroes of the Marvel Comics universe.

Much as Alison Bechdel did in her thoughtful graphic memoir “ The Secret to Superhuman Strength ,” Brodeur weaves into the historical narrative chapters from his own life story — brandishing He-Man’s Power Sword for the camera at age 7, getting punched by a classmate shortly after achieving zero pull-ups during the Presidential Fitness Test in high school, being inspired to take up weightlifting by the punk singer Henry Rollins’s 1993 testimonial in Details magazine (Rollins: “I have found the iron to be my greatest friend”). In the 1950s, magazines like Physique Pictorial, Brodeur writes, established a link between bodybuilding and homosexuality that “has never been severed,” and he candidly admits that in his own case, muscles have set up “a feedback loop of defense and desire,” as they do for many gay men. Eros doesn’t seem to be the whole story, however. Flexing in front of a mirror, the adult Brodeur describes himself as thinking, “I hope no one is looking. I hope they can see me,” a double bind that sounded familiar to me, a middle-aged gay man who took up Cross Fit a few years ago and is similarly both proud of his new body and mortified by his needy wish to show it off. Working on one’s body seems to bring up issues that are pre-Oedipal, to use a psychoanalytic term; it can feel like a belated attempt to secure or repair the self. In Reagan’s America, after all, it was difficult for a gay person to grow up without incurring psychic injury.

A stigmatized identity is far from the only kind of damage people have hoped to heal with weights. Brodeur reports that one study found that 21 percent of bodybuilders were bullied in childhood; among them were Lou Ferrigno, Sylvester Stallone and Atlas. American men today suffer from mental illness, substance abuse and suicide at higher rates than women, and Brodeur is nervously aware of the high-profile online hucksters who sell lifting to these men as a nostrum, usually along with supplements and a revanchist sexual ethos. “The hole in men’s souls,” he writes, “doubles as a gap in the market.” He is agnostic about the steroids that also circulate in the “manosphere.” Although he isn’t tempted to use them himself, he believes no one should be denied gender-affirming care—not even people assigned male at birth who want to venture further into masculinity.

Brodeur may be more worried than he needs to be about defending lifting from guilt by association; it isn’t problematic just because the online hucksters are. There’s mounting evidence, for example, that resistance training improves the fitness of older adults as much as aerobic exercise does . As a bodybuilder, Brodeur usually works out alone, but late in the book, he finds a gym where, to his surprise, men encourage and praise one another, rather than glare in ear-budded isolation, and where the work the men are doing together seems to be helping a number of them move forward from places where they had got stuck — drift, addiction, jail, loneliness. Brodeur speculates that the project of acquiring big muscles has become for these men “a way to authorize a level of affection and support that might otherwise be impossible.”

I recognize the vibe. There’s a similar one at the gym I go to, where there are women and nonbinary people in the classes as well as men, and also — this may sound a little incongruous — a similar one among my fellow birdwatchers in the local park, who share their finds as openly, record them as fastidiously, and compare them as emulously as gymgoers do their lifts. Maybe the men at the gym Brodeur found bond, in other words, not because muscles give them cover for departing from conventional male brusqueness but because lifting, independent of any gender coloration it may or may not have, is something they are able to both share in and compete in, thanks to norms — such as respect, fairness, honesty, mutuality and excellence — that the gym’s leaders and members maintain. An experience like that would make anyone stronger.

Caleb Crain is the author of “Overthrow” and “Necessary Errors.”

The Making of Men and the Meaning of Muscle

By Michael Andor Brodeur

Beacon Press. 244 pp. $28.95.

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.

autobiography what meaning


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  1. Autobiography Definition & Meaning

    autobiography: [noun] the biography of a person narrated by himself or herself.

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    autobiography, the biography of oneself narrated by oneself. Autobiographical works can take many forms, from the intimate writings made during life that were not necessarily intended for publication (including letters, diaries, journals, memoirs, and reminiscences) to a formal book-length autobiography. Formal autobiographies offer a special ...

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    An autobiography, sometimes informally called an autobio, is a self-written biography of one's own life. Definition The word "autobiography" was first used deprecatingly by William Taylor in 1797 in the English periodical The Monthly Review , when he suggested the word as a hybrid, but condemned it as "pedantic".


    AUTOBIOGRAPHY definition: 1. a book about a person's life, written by that person: 2. the area of literature relating to…. Learn more.

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    "Autobiography is an unrivaled vehicle for telling the truth about other people." (attributed to Thomas Carlyle, Philip Guedalla, and others) Autobiography and Memoir - "An autobiography is the story of a life: the name implies that the writer will somehow attempt to capture all the essential elements of that life. A writer's autobiography, for ...

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    Definition & Examples. I. What is Autobiography? An autobiography is a self-written life story. It is different from a biography, which is the life story of a person written by someone else. Some people may have their life story written by another person because they don't believe they can write well, but they are still considered an author ...

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    Autobiography Definition. An autobiography (awe-tow-bye-AWE-gruh-fee) is a self-written biography. The author writes about all or a portion of their own life to share their experience, frame it in a larger cultural or historical context, and/or inform and entertain the reader. Autobiographies have been a popular literary genre for centuries.

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    autobiography, Biography of oneself narrated by oneself. Little autobiographical literature exists from antiquity and the Middle Ages; with a handful of exceptions, the form begins to appear only in the 15th century. Autobiographical works take many forms, from intimate writings made during life that are not necessarily intended for publication ...

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    Definition of Autobiography Autobiography is one type of biography , which tells the life story of its author, meaning it is a written record of the author's life. Rather than being written by somebody else, an autobiography comes through the person's own pen, in his own words.

  11. autobiography noun

    Definition of autobiography noun in Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary. Meaning, pronunciation, picture, example sentences, grammar, usage notes, synonyms and more.

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    AUTOBIOGRAPHY meaning: a biography written by the person it is about. a very autobiographical novel [=a novel that is closely based on the life of the person who wrote it]

  14. What Is an Autobiography? (And How to Write Yours)

    The word autobiography literally means SELF (auto), LIFE (bio), WRITING (graph). Or, in other words, an autobiography is the story of someone's life written or otherwise told by that person. When writing your autobiography, find out what makes your family or your experience unique and build a narrative around that.

  15. What is An Autobiography?: Definition & Writing Tips

    What is an autobiography? It's a firsthand recounting of an author's own life. So, if you were to write an autobiography, you would be writing a true retelling of your own life events. Autobiography cannot be bound to only one type of work. What an autobiography is has more to do with the contents than the format.

  16. AUTOBIOGRAPHY definition

    AUTOBIOGRAPHY meaning: 1. a book about a person's life, written by that person: 2. the area of literature relating to…. Learn more.

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    autobiography: 1 n a biography of yourself Types: memoir an account of the author's personal experiences Type of: biography , life , life history , life story an account of the series of events making up a person's life

  18. AUTOBIOGRAPHY definition and meaning

    An account of a person's life written or otherwise recorded by that person.... Click for English pronunciations, examples sentences, video.

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    autobiography. The life story of an individual, as written by himself, is called autobiography. It differs from biography in that the person presents himself to his readers as he views himself and as he wants to be understood by others (see Biography ). The autobiographer's most useful source of information is his own memory, aided by diaries ...

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    What does the noun autobiography mean? There is one meaning in OED's entry for the noun autobiography. See 'Meaning & use' for definition, usage, and quotation evidence. See meaning & use. How common is the noun autobiography? About 6 occurrences per million words in modern written English . 1790: 0.064: 1800: 0.054: 1810: 0.069: 1820: 0.24 ...

  21. Biography vs. Autobiography: Differences and Features

    Analyze the differences: biography vs autobiography. Includes descriptions & examples of each. We've even highlighted key differences for easy reference.

  22. Autobiography

    An autobiography is an account of a person's life written by that person or subject itself. A biography is an account of someone's life written by someone else. A memoir is also an account of someone's life but of during a specific time in the journey of his/her life. This means it only covers a part of the author's life.

  23. Difference between Biography and Autobiography

    Definition of Biography. A biography also referred as 'bio' is a detailed account of a person's life written or produced by another person. It gives an elaborate information regarding the birthplace, educational background, work, relationships and demise of the person concerned. It presents the subject's intimate details about life ...

  24. Swole by Michael Andor Brodeur book review

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