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, 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

The whaling industry has touched the fates of families and communities around the globe, and this museum works diligently to get as much of that complex history into its labyrinth of galleries. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "New England museums to visit this summer and fall," 4 July 2018 Villanelle insists on being taken at face value; to search for a noble motivation is to trap oneself in her psychological labyrinth. Hannah Giorgis, The Atlantic, "Killing Eve and the Riddle of Why Women Kill," 28 May 2018 Residents of Montclair can easily travel to Eagle Rock Reservation, with its 408 acres of rolling hills, and Brookdale Park, with its labyrinth of trails, both designed by the Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park with Calvert Vaux. Brooke Lea Foster, New York Times, "Comparing Suburbs: Montclair in New Jersey vs. Dobbs Ferry in New York," 23 Feb. 2018 The labyrinth, up the hill behind the church building, is also open to the public during daylight hours. Courant Community, "Community News For The Enfield Edition," 5 June 2018 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

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

10 Nov 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

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full of whispering sounds

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