labyrinth

noun
lab·​y·​rinth | \ ˈla-bə-ˌrin(t)th How to pronounce labyrinth (audio) , -rən(t)th\

Definition of labyrinth

1a : a place constructed of or full of intricate passageways and blind alleys a complex labyrinth of tunnels and chambers
b : a maze (as in a garden) formed by paths separated by high hedges
2 : something extremely complex or tortuous (see tortuous sense 1) in structure, arrangement, or character : intricacy, perplexity a labyrinth of swamps and channels guided them through the labyrinths of city life— Paul Blanshard
3 : a tortuous anatomical structure especially : the internal ear or its bony or membranous part

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Synonyms for labyrinth

Synonyms

maze, rabbit warren, warren

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Is there a difference between maze and labyrinth?

Is there a difference between the words maze and labyrinth? Not so much; both words are used in reference to confusing networks of passages or channels, or for a thing that is complicated or confusingly elaborate. However, in origin the two words are quite different. Maze is presumed to come from an unrecorded Old English word masian (“to confuse”), whereas labyrinth has a more classical pedigree.

Ancient Greek legends tell of King Minos of Crete, who had the inventor Daedalus create a labyrinth beneath his palace in which was housed the Minotaur, a fearsome monster with the head of a bull and body of a man. The Minotaur was said to have been slain by the Greek hero Theseus, who then managed to find his way out of the labyrinth with the aid of a ball of thread that had been given to him by Ariadne, the daughter of Minos.

Examples of labyrinth in a Sentence

a complex labyrinth of tunnels and chambers The cockpit was a labyrinth of instruments and controls. a labyrinth of social customs and rules
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Recent Examples on the Web

Gone is the labyrinth of alleys that rambled down to the port. The Economist, "Beirut is still arguing over its post-war reconstruction," 11 July 2019 The divorce between Fotis and Jennifer Dulos is its own legal labyrinth. Barnini Chakraborty, Fox News, "Estranged husband of missing Connecticut mom has history of loan defaults, business complaints," 6 June 2019 Critics easily become lost in the labyrinth of quotations that Twombly draws on in his paintings. Andrew Martin, Harper's magazine, "Not Mere Projection," 10 Mar. 2019 At night, the labyrinth lights up with shisha bars and music. Jenna Scatena, Condé Nast Traveler, "Why Doha Is Much More Than a Stopover Destination," 4 June 2019 Rooms were partitioned with flammable materials like tapestries, pianos, old windows and created a labyrinth for those unfamiliar with the space. Matthias Gafni, SFChronicle.com, "Ghost Ship defendant Max Harris testifies: ‘There weren’t hard and fast rules’," 17 June 2019 The multiple underground corridors seem like a labyrinth to outsiders. Sylvie Corbet, Fox News, "Hidden underground world below French president put on view," 15 Sep. 2018 Those clients’ money has long since vanished into a labyrinth of offshore companies around the globe. Patricia Kowsmann, WSJ, "How One Stubborn Banker Exposed a $200 Billion Russian Money-Laundering Scandal," 23 Oct. 2018 His house is a labyrinth of small rooms filled with his collections of ancient antiquities and British art. Emily Selter, Town & Country, "London Travel Guide: The Best Things to Do, See, Eat, and More," 7 Aug. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'labyrinth.' 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 labyrinth

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for labyrinth

Middle English laborintus, from Latin labyrinthus, from Greek labyrinthos

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Statistics for labyrinth

Last Updated

21 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for labyrinth

The first known use of labyrinth was in the 15th century

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More Definitions for labyrinth

labyrinth

noun

English Language Learners Definition of labyrinth

: a place that has many confusing paths or passages
: something that is extremely complicated or difficult to understand

labyrinth

noun
lab·​y·​rinth | \ ˈla-bə-ˌrinth How to pronounce labyrinth (audio) \

Kids Definition of labyrinth

: a place that has many confusing paths and passages

labyrinth

noun
lab·​y·​rinth | \ ˈlab-ə-ˌrin(t)th, -rən(t)th How to pronounce labyrinth (audio) \

Medical Definition of labyrinth

: a tortuous anatomical structure especially : the inner ear or its bony or membranous part — see bony labyrinth, membranous labyrinth

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Comments on labyrinth

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