archetype

noun

ar·​che·​type ˈär-ki-ˌtīp How to pronounce archetype (audio)
1
: the original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copies : prototype
… the House of Commons, the archetype of all the representative assemblies which now meet …Thomas Babington Macaulay
also : a perfect example
He is the archetype of a successful businessman.
2
3
psychology : an inherited idea or mode of thought in the psychology of Carl Gustav Jung that is derived from the experience of the race and is present in the unconscious of the individual
archetypal adjective
or less commonly archetypical
an archetypal English village
archetypally adverb
or less commonly archetypically

Did you know?

Archetype comes from the Greek verb archein ("to begin" or "to rule") and the noun typos ("type"). Archetype has specific uses in the fields of philosophy and psychology. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato, for example, believed that all things have ideal forms (aka archetypes) of which real things are merely shadows or copies. And in the psychology of C. G. Jung, archetype refers to an inherited idea or mode of thought that is present in the unconscious of the individual. In everyday prose, however, archetype is most commonly used to mean "a perfect example of something."

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Yet Camilla finds herself under fire yet again, in a version of the fairy tale archetype of the wicked stepmother. Michelle Ruiz, Vogue, 9 Jan. 2023 Smith, the convention co-founder, says that people are drawn to mermaiding for many reasons, the most prominent of which seems to be the longevity of the archetype. Los Angeles Times, 6 Oct. 2022 If anything, today’s superheroes, whether in comics, video games or movies, are just the latest iterations of an archetype whose existence stretches back millennia, appearing in the myths and legends of virtually every culture on the planet. Stephen C. George, Discover Magazine, 21 Mar. 2022 This is the archetype, the ye olde, your classic ball drop. Jason P. Frank, Vulture, 28 Dec. 2022 In time, though, attention has centered on the mental health struggles of America’s most celebrated archetype — the military veteran. Lyle Jeremy Rubin, Washington Post, 13 Dec. 2022 Although Patti Smith and Blondie’s Debbie Harry were the spotlight frontwomen of the CBGB’s scene, Weymouth cut a unique figure that would soon become an archetype: the female bass player in an otherwise all-male band. Al Shipley, SPIN, 21 Sep. 2022 Traditionally, the working class has been represented by a compelling archetype—a white man with a union job who was able to earn a comfortable wage even without a college degree. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, 6 Sep. 2022 By the end of the Crimean War, Mother Seacole had become the archetype of the loyal colonial subject doing her bit for the British war effort—the embodiment of Christian kindness, compassion and generosity of spirit. Helen Rappaport, Smithsonian Magazine, 6 Sep. 2022 See More

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

Word History

Etymology

Latin archetypum, from Greek archetypon, from neuter of archetypos archetypal, from archein + typos type

First Known Use

1545, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of archetype was in 1545

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Dictionary Entries Near archetype

Cite this Entry

“Archetype.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/archetype. Accessed 28 Jan. 2023.

Kids Definition

archetype

noun
ar·​che·​type ˈär-ki-ˌtīp How to pronounce archetype (audio)
: the original pattern or model from which something is copied
archetypal adjective

Medical Definition

archetype

noun
ar·​che·​type ˈär-ki-ˌtīp How to pronounce archetype (audio)
1
a
: a primitive generalized plan of structure deduced from the characters of a natural group of plants or animals and assumed to be the characteristic of the ancestor from which they are all descended
b
: the original ancestor of a group of plants or animals
2
: an inherited idea or mode of thought in the psychology of C. G. Jung that is derived from the experience of the race and is present in the unconscious of the individual
archetypal adjective

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