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

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

One of the most radical changes in the labyrinth of the Middle East is the near cessation of the old formal hostility of the Arab nations to Israel. Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "Israel’s Good and Bad New Realities," 3 Sep. 2019 Rooms were partitioned with tapestries, pianos and old windows, creating a labyrinth for those unfamiliar with the space. Sarah Ravani, SFChronicle.com, "Ghost Ship trial: Government agent contradicts defense witness’ arson testimony," 15 July 2019 Boerner has had to navigate a labyrinth of bureaucracy to find out what went wrong. Rebekah L. Sanders, azcentral, "Disabled military veteran could lose his home over $236 in back taxes," 12 July 2019 My office has also helped several constituents navigate the labyrinth of state government, another area where Adrienne excels. Lucas Aulbach, The Courier-Journal, "Jenean Hampton: Bevin's chief of staff 'overstepped his boundaries' in firing my aide," 18 June 2019 The mouse sprinting through this dizzying psychosexual labyrinth is Chloé Fortin (Marine Vacth), a dark-haired 25-year-old beauty with a sad, haunted stare and a history of abdominal pains. Justin Chang, latimes.com, "François Ozon's psychosexual thriller 'Double Lover' is a twisty, trashy delight," 14 Feb. 2018 Suffice to say, this space offers a rare opportunity to take a break from the concrete labyrinth that is New York City–and during the city's biggest annual event, New York Fashion Week, no less. Chelsey Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, "Get Your Tarot Cards Read at Mother's Mystical NYC Pop-Up," 13 Sep. 2019 And then there’s the hedge labyrinth and roofless church—hints that this isn’t just any ordinary rural community. Diana Budds, Curbed, "This small Indiana town is a hotbed of utopianism," 5 Aug. 2019 This nine-level labyrinth runs 1,100 feet underground, and its 3,000 chambers, sculptures, and stairways were all painstakingly carved by miners. Malavika Bhattacharya, National Geographic, "Why is everyone going to Krakow?," 23 July 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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Statistics for labyrinth

Last Updated

13 Oct 2019

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

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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