I can't remember a word which means something (a film or piece of art or anything) which showcases all the idiosyncrasies of that time. We watched a 1960's film about our company and everything in it (hair styles, clothes, computers, style of furniture, style of dialogue, style of music) were so representative of that time period, that it actually seemed unreal!

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    The word you're using is perfectly fine as it is: "it's representative of its time" – P. O. May 20 '15 at 14:38
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    @P.Obertelli that's obviously more than one word ... – ell May 20 '15 at 22:54
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    @sgroves "Representative" is obviously only one word, but you need to say to what it applies to and how it does. Whichever word you use – the movie...captures the zeitgeist of the 60's/ is emblematic of the 60''S/is typical of the 60's/ is a showcase of the 60's/ is sooo 60's or, again is representative of the 60's...so it really is one word, but you obviously need to add the time period to which it applies and a verb to use in a a sentence that makes sense. – P. O. May 21 '15 at 11:46
  • +1 for 'representative' (if that's what you mean. Another suggestion is 'contemporary' which means 'of that time' (but not with the emphasis on 'idiosyncratic' or 'defining'. – Mitch May 21 '15 at 15:36

I think you're thinking of 'Zeitgeist'. It typically refers to the general 'spirit' of an era - that is to say 'the culture' - but can include things like art, architecture and fashion that represent an era as they are so closely entwined with the dominant culture (see Wikipedia)

noun, German. 1. the spirit of the time; general trend of thought or feeling characteristic of a particular period of time.


As long as you are specific about what you are referring to, emblematic may be used:


Serving as a symbol of a particular quality or concept; symbolic

In the particular sense you are looking for, a common phrase would be that something is "emblematic of its time."


"This book is emblematic of Russian literature at the turn of the century."


Possibly quintessential expresses what you want. It has no special links to a time period but it expresses an extremely high level of representation:

  1. of the pure and essential essence of something: the quintessential Jewish delicatessen.
  2. of or relating to the most perfect embodiment of something: the quintessential performance of the Brandenburg Concertos.

You may be after 'anachronistic' rather than 'dated' as proposed in another answer.

The training video they showed us was anachronistic.

In sense 1.1 from Oxford Dictionaries:

Belonging or appropriate to an earlier period, especially so as to seem conspicuously old-fashioned.

However - as always - it depends on the context of what you are trying to say...

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    If something is anachronistic, it is implied to be out of place, like a documentary about the 1960s that depicted everyone riding around in horse carriages. The carriages would be anachronistic. They are certainly not representative of the 1960s. Even given the 1.1 definition, it still implies something deliberately out of place, like a historic city giving tours in a horse carriage now. Even with the second definition, most people that hear this word are going to assume the first definition. I don't think that this word matches the meaning that the OP is looking for. – Paul Griffin May 20 '15 at 14:28
  • @PaulGriffin This is why I added the point about context. In my (relatively fast-moving) industry, if they showed us a training video from the 1960s it certainly would be anachronistic! – Jascol May 20 '15 at 14:33

I think zeitgeist best captures the sense of the original question. I have also seen the phrase 'index fossil' used to describe a particular individual thing [word, fashion accessory, personal grooming style, bestselling book], but not in the all-encompassing sense of zeitgeist.


It is a period piece:

a work of art, furniture, literature, etc., characteristic of its historical period; a work which is now of interest primarily for its evocation of the historical period to which it belongs; a work produced in an old-fashioned or archaic style so as to evoke a particular historical period. [OED]

The last of the three semicolon-separated definitions here is for when the period resonance is deliberate artifice, executed in a later period than the one evoked, as in the novels of Scott; but the other two would seem to fit your company film right enough.


You might be looking for a slice of life. (it is frequently hyphenated as an attributive noun. e.g slice-of-life drama). It is a piece that represents a portion of (everyday) life but it can represent any time period realistically.

[translating French tranche de la vie , a term originally applied to French Naturalist literature] a realistic and detailed portrayal in drama, narrative, painting, etc., of incidents typical of everyday life. [OED]

From wisegeeek.com:

Sometimes a film made in an earlier time becomes representative of the time period. Movies like Saturday Night Fever, Mrs. Miniver, or The Best Years of our Lives are “slice of life” films that accurately depict the time in which they were made. Though these were not technically made as period films, they have become so and are associated specifically with the eras or the moments in history they depict.


Representative (Collins):

"serving to represent; symbolic

exemplifying a class or kind; typical ⇒ "a representative example of the species"

containing or including examples of all the interests, types, etc, in a group ⇒ "a representative collection""


Perhaps you're thinking of dated which has the sense of being from an earlier period.

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