History is often used as a generic term for information about the past, such as in "geologic history of the Earth." When used as the name of a field of study, history means human history, which is the recorded memory of past human societies.
The term history comes from the Greek historia, "an account of one's inquiries," and shares that etymology with the English word story. Some feminist scholars instead use the term herstory for the word history.
Historians use many types of sources, including written or printed records, interviews (oral history), and archaeology. Different approaches may be more common in some periods than others, and the study of history has its fads and fashions (see historiography, the history of history). The events that occurred prior to human records are known as prehistory.
A form of historical speculation known commonly as virtual history (also called "counterfactual history") been adopted by some historians as a means of assessing and exploring the possible outcomes if certain events had not occurred or had occurred in a different way to that which they did. This is somewhat similar to the alternative history genre in fiction.