myth

noun
\ ˈmith \

Definition of myth 

1a : a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon creation myths

b : parable, allegory Moral responsibility is the motif of Plato's myths.

2a : a popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone especially : one embodying the ideals and institutions of a society or segment of society seduced by the American myth of individualism —Orde Coombs the utopian myth of a perfect society

b : an unfounded or false notion the myth of racial superiority

3 : a person or thing having only an imaginary or unverifiable existence the Superman myth The unicorn is a myth.

4 : the whole body of myths a student of Greek myth

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myth and urban myth

For a word so often applied to events or stories from long, long ago, myth has a remarkably recent history in the English language. The earliest evidence for the word is from 1830, well after the time when the events themselves are thought to have occurred (though it should be noted that the related words mythology and mythic are hundreds of years older – still not as old as Achilles, but not young, either!). One application of myth, however – in the phrase urban myth – is quite new. Curiously, an urban myth does not usually have anything to do with the city: it is simply “a story about an unusual event or occurrence that many people believe is true but that is not true.” An example would be the tale that Elvis Presley is still alive after spending decades in a witness protection program. The phrase urban myth has been used to describe such hoaxes since at least 1971.

Examples of myth in a Sentence

It's an enduring myth that money brings happiness. I don't believe the myths and legends about this forest. Contrary to popular myth, no monster lives in this lake.
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Recent Examples on the Web

The story is based on a myth of the blue fox that Takada had become fascinated with. Rachel Hahn, Vogue, "Two Generations of Experimental Musical Artists Join Forces for a Dreamy New Kenzo Video," 12 July 2018 Drug dealing has always been a major character in the persistent myth of the scourge of black criminality in rap music. Josie Duffy Rice, The Atlantic, "The Gospel According to Pusha T," 12 July 2018 In the myth of the game, the decisive moment is supposed to have come when Uruguay’s captain Obdulio Varela punched Brazil left back Bigode and gained a psychological advantage. Jonathan Wilson, SI.com, "Manager Oscar Tabarez Wields His Influence to Mold, Adapt, Embody Uruguay," 5 July 2018 So all of these myths, these false choices, and these ways in which we’ve been divided and torn apart are actually hindering our ability as a country to fully be successful and whole. Rebecca Traister, The Cut, "Cages, ‘Infestations,’ and the Demonization of Immigrants," 27 June 2018 Fiennes narration during the event referred to the myths of these early Viking travelers. Gene Sloan, USA TODAY, "Astronaut christens new Viking Cruises ship, Viking Orion, in elaborate ceremony," 14 June 2018 The origin myths of many superheroes lie in life-altering accidents or bodily mutations. Pasquale Toscano, BostonGlobe.com, "Where are all the superheroes with disabilities?," 1 June 2018 The past two generations have crushed the myth of the clean athlete. Mac Engel, star-telegram, "MLB players made it impossible to believe Robinson Cano | Fort Worth Star-Telegram," 15 May 2018 They were led back in time by a White Tiger, taken on an adventure involving the creation myth of Korea. Anna Fifield, Anchorage Daily News, "As Olympics open with dazzling spectacle, all eyes are on North Korea," 9 Feb. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'myth.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of myth

1830, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for myth

earlier mythos, mythus, borrowed from Greek mŷthos "utterance, speech, discourse, tale, narrative, fiction, legend," of obscure origin

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Learn More about myth

Dictionary Entries near myth

mystifiedly

mystify

mystique

myth

mythi

mythical

mythicalness

Statistics for myth

Last Updated

8 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for myth

The first known use of myth was in 1830

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More Definitions for myth

myth

noun

English Language Learners Definition of myth

: an idea or story that is believed by many people but that is not true

: a story that was told in an ancient culture to explain a practice, belief, or natural occurrence

: such stories as a group

myth

noun
\ ˈmith \

Kids Definition of myth

1 : a story often describing the adventures of beings with more than human powers that attempts to explain mysterious events (as the changing of the seasons) or that explains a religious belief or practice

2 : such stories as a group

3 : a person or thing existing only in the imagination The dragon is a myth.

4 : a popular belief that is not true It's just a myth that money can buy happiness.

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Comments on myth

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