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


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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 Isaac delves deeper and deeper into the labyrinth under his house, eventually somehow making it into his mother’s womb—and then Hell itself—while shooting at piles of poop and distorted visions of his own psyche. Ars Staff, Ars Technica, "The 2010s were full of video games we’ll gladly revisit for decades to come," 26 Dec. 2019 In the labyrinth of tunnels that make up the city’s metro system, one station stands out in particular: Stadion. Jennifer Nalewicki, Smithsonian, "A Tour of the World’s Most Spectacular Ceilings," 22 Oct. 2019 The Renegades Deep in the outskirts of the GA campgrounds exists a mind-melting labyrinth of renegade parties. Morena Duwe, Billboard, "Breakdancing, Bingo & Bass: The 10 Best Moments of Dirtybird Campout West Coast 2019," 7 Oct. 2019 The pair made the building into a labyrinth loaded with flammable furniture and a rickety stairway that gave little chance for escape, prosecutors said. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Dive boat, Ghost Ship fires a lesson in proving negligence," 19 Sep. 2019 But make no mistake: the road to entrepreneurship is a winding, labyrinth of a path full of unexpected twists and turns. Ashley Mcdonough, Essence, "Are you Ready to Start a Business?," 5 Dec. 2019 Alam ran toward his nephew in a crowded section of central New Delhi, through the winding labyrinth of dirt lanes, past butcher shops and cart pullers, trailed by other men who had woken up to loud cries for help that echoed from a building on fire. Washington Post, "New Delhi fire victims lived and worked in unsafe spaces," 8 Dec. 2019 Various disreputable/conniving/secretive offspring, vying for control and inheritance of the family publishing empire, side-eye their way through Johnson’s labyrinth of a plot. Michael Phillips,, "With ‘Knives Out,’ writer-director Rian Johnson recasts Agatha Christie for the MAGA age," 20 Nov. 2019 Lizzie and Hope’s [Danielle Rose Russell] journey through the minotaur’s labyrinth was a huge step forward for the former enemies. Sydney Bucksbaum,, "Legacies boss on those massive villain twists: 'It's not going to be great for our heroes'," 15 Nov. 2019

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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Time Traveler for labyrinth

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for labyrinth

Last Updated

20 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Labyrinth.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 21 January 2020.

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More Definitions for labyrinth


How to pronounce labyrinth (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of labyrinth

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


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

Kids Definition of labyrinth

: a place that has many confusing paths and passages


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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