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

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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 What investigators needed was a tool that could cut a clean line through the labyrinth. Arthur Holland Michel, Wired, "There Are Spying Eyes Everywhere—and Now They Share a Brain," 4 Feb. 2021 There are worse places to be lost than the old medina of Tunis, a dizzying labyrinth of ancient alleyways. New York Times, "How to Pretend You’re in Tunis Tonight," 12 Jan. 2021 Even if the permits are in order, the building codes are a labyrinth of shifting passages. Burkhard Bilger, The New Yorker, "The Art of Building the Impossible," 23 Nov. 2020 The health care system’s labyrinth of rules and unyielding bureaucracy create high bars for even the most sophisticated and well-educated patients. BostonGlobe.com, "Color line persists, in sickness as in health," 12 Dec. 2017 Did anybody tweet or share information about the labyrinth of tunnels and hallways in this Capitol building? Emily Brooks, Washington Examiner, "Tlaib weeps on House floor during AOC-organized therapy session on Capitol breach," 5 Feb. 2021 Tueni and Ismaïl wander through the desolate cityscape, the labyrinth of Beirut’s ruins, as Ismaïl takes photographs. Richard Brody, The New Yorker, "Two Works by a Great Lebanese Filmmaker on Netflix," 28 Jan. 2021 Oakes ably guides the reader through the Byzantine legal labyrinth of slavery American style – perhaps Gordian Knot is a better metaphor. David Holahan, USA TODAY, "'Crooked Path to Abolition' review: How Lincoln, an antislavery moderate, abolished slavery," 12 Jan. 2021 People should allow for about 20 minutes to walk through a labyrinth, the group said. oregonlive, "Circles in the Sand announces sand labyrinth schedule for 2021 on Oregon coast," 5 Jan. 2021

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

23 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Labyrinth.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/labyrinth. Accessed 24 Feb. 2021.

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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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