lab·y·rinth | \ ˈla-bə-ˌrin(t)th , -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


maze, 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

The city said its receipt of the land precluded leasing to a non-government agency without the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, a potential labyrinth. Logan Jenkins,, "Cliff-hanger update: 3 damsels no longer distressed," 2 July 2018 Not since Ridley Scott’s labyrinths has a setting been so comprehensively mapped: main room, kitchen, living room, library, bathroom, hallways, back rooms, staircase, bedroom. Jason Kehe, WIRED, "Sci-Fi Invades Netflix—as They Both Invade Your Home," 9 July 2018 Attorneys have become a lifeline for migrants in detention, responding as would clergy to a disaster or tragedy, as the legal labyrinth of immigration has become all that more complicated. NBC News, "'Where's my kid?' At Texas border, desperate parents turn to attorneys to find their children," 24 June 2018 Expert divers guided each boy for several hours, navigating more than two miles of the narrow, twisting, dark and dangerous labyrinth. John Bacon, ajc, "WATCH: Video shows rescued Thai soccer players flashing victory sign from hospital beds," 12 July 2018 More: Out of the cave, onto the big screen: Hollywood taks on Thai rescue Expert divers guided each boy for several hours, navigating more than two miles of narrow, twisting, dark and dangerous labyrinth. John Bacon, USA TODAY, "How 100 heroes came together to rescue 12 boys and their coach from the Thailand cave," 11 July 2018 Named for a goddess in Greek mythology who helped Theseus out of a labyrinth, Ariadne takes on a wide range of projects, some focused on the U.S. and some abroad. Ike Swetlitz, STAT, "Inside Ariadne Labs, Atul Gawande’s testing ground for new ideas in health care," 27 June 2018 Most of the movie is shot on the streets of SoHo, a neighborhood made to seem a dangerous, deserted labyrinth. New York Times, "The Late, Late Show With Martin Scorsese," 9 May 2018 In his absurdist comedy Sorry to Bother You, which makes its nationwide debut today, writer-director Boots Riley turns the Bay Area into an eerie labyrinth. Max Cea, Billboard, "'Sorry to Bother You' Director Boots Riley on Working With Tune-Yards and Breaking the Rules of Soundtracks," 13 July 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

1 Sep 2018

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



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 \

Kids Definition of labyrinth

: a place that has many confusing paths and passages


lab·y·rinth | \ ˈlab-ə-ˌrin(t)th, -rən(t)th \

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

What made you want to look up labyrinth? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


characteristic trappings or dress

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