\ ˈmith How to pronounce myth (audio) \

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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Synonyms for 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 precise numbers are a myth, but the inequality and social immobility that such tales hint at is real. The Economist, "The influence of Central American dynasties is ebbing," 31 Mar. 2021 Thought to be a myth, the Sun Summoner will be the one who takes down The Fold, an ocean of darkness that brings unknown terror and death to those who try to cross it. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "The "Shadow & Bone" Trailer is Here and It Will Get You Excited to Go Into the Fold," 30 Mar. 2021 The notion that an absence of lockdowns, especially in Sweden, didn’t result in sharply higher death rates is a myth, and even the Swedes tightened their restrictions since November. WSJ, "Were the Lockdowns Worth the Heavy Costs?," 21 Mar. 2021 By the time Chen graduated from Peking University in 2004, China was perched on the edge of another revolution—the internet boom—and the Chinese people had bought into another myth: that technology had the power to change the world for good. Yi-ling Liu, Wired, "Sci-Fi Writer or Prophet? The Hyperreal Life of Chen Qiufan," 9 Mar. 2021 But Citizen Kane itself was an exploration into the myth of fame and fortune surrounding the towering figure of media mogul William Randolph Hearst. Anne Cohen,, "Marion Davies’ Scandalously Glamorous Life Deserves Its Own Movie," 7 Dec. 2020 The short trip turned into a 40-day journey into myth. Mark Jenkins, Washington Post, "For this artist and his girlfriend, life in lockdown became a creative opportunity," 12 Nov. 2020 West went on to fold McDonald’s action into the myth of the early NRA’s role during Reconstruction. Frank Smyth, The New Republic, "The Myths Fueling Today’s Armed Right," 28 Oct. 2020 And by the time each of these books was written, Bierce, Oswald, Ray, and the Ertl family were dead, receding into myth. Andrew Altschul, The New York Review of Books, "Fiction and Responsibility," 6 July 2020

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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Statistics for myth

Last Updated

5 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Myth.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 10 Apr. 2021.

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More Definitions for myth



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


\ ˈmith How to pronounce myth (audio) \

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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