lab·​y·​rinth ˈla-bə-ˌrin(t)th How to pronounce labyrinth (audio)
: a place constructed of or full of intricate passageways and blind alleys
a complex labyrinth of tunnels and chambers
: a maze (as in a garden) formed by paths separated by high hedges
: 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 lifePaul Blanshard
: a tortuous anatomical structure
especially : the internal ear or its bony or membranous part

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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
Recent Examples on the Web Hamas leaders have boasted that the labyrinth of tunnels is hundreds of miles long and full of traps. Raf Sanchez, NBC News, 6 Nov. 2023 The decline of Lake Powell has revealed Glen Canyon, the gorgeous red-rock labyrinth that the reservoir drowned in the 1960s. WIRED, 4 Nov. 2023 The project is not for aquaculture, an industry that has increased salinity problems amid the labyrinth of ponds and channels of Mongla, but so residents can collect enough rainwater for household cleaning. Melanie Stetson Freeman, The Christian Science Monitor, 9 Nov. 2023 The latter ranges from a prop hunt to a race, as well as maneuvering a labyrinth and exploring a host of rooms inspired by different destinations. Demetrius Simms, Robb Report, 3 Nov. 2023 It's also believed that the more than 200 hostages, who were kidnapped during the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks, are within the labyrinth of tunnels. Mike Brest, Washington Examiner, 2 Nov. 2023 The child ventures into a world of magical characters in an ancient labyrinth garden, where she is put to the ultimate test through a set of trials. Allison Argueta-Claros, Los Angeles Times, 27 Oct. 2023 Officials are also under pressure to save as many of the 220 Israeli and foreign hostages held in Hamas’ underground labyrinth of tunnels in Gaza. Anna Schecter, NBC News, 25 Oct. 2023 The release of the two women takes the total number of captives freed to four, but more than 200 hostages are believed to be trapped in Gaza, some within the labyrinth of Hamas tunnels dug beneath the coastal strip. Heather Chen, CNN, 24 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'labyrinth.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Middle English laborintus, from Latin labyrinthus, from Greek labyrinthos

First Known Use

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

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

Dictionary Entries Near labyrinth

Cite this Entry

“Labyrinth.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 29 Nov. 2023.

Kids Definition


lab·​y·​rinth ˈlab-ə-ˌrin(t)th How to pronounce labyrinth (audio)
: a place full of passageways and blind alleys so arranged as to make it difficult to find one's way around : maze
: something extremely complicated or twisting
the cockpit was a labyrinth of instruments and controls
: the internal ear or its bony or membranous part

Medical Definition


lab·​y·​rinth ˈlab-ə-ˌrin(t)th, -rən(t)th How to pronounce labyrinth (audio)
: a tortuous anatomical structure
especially : the inner ear or its bony or membranous part see bony labyrinth, membranous labyrinth

More from Merriam-Webster on labyrinth

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