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 An infinite labyrinth of rooms, halls and statues encompassing a thundering ocean is within. Kami Phillips, CNN Underscored, "All the new books you’ll want to read in September," 10 Sep. 2020 There, the commercial landscape is a labyrinth of global interests. Washington Post, "Ethics and economics: The conflicting values of the esports industry," 3 Sep. 2020 This promises to be an experience that takes you inside the labyrinth—from the comfort of your own home. Shirley Macfarland, cleveland, "CPT awakens and celebrates the artist within us all: Strong Points," 28 Aug. 2020 Part of the trick of the Dipsea is the labyrinth of turns in the first 1.5 miles. Tom Stienstra,, "No more getting lost: famous Dipsea Trail finally gets trail markers," 11 Aug. 2020 Unfortunately, the 2019 Polar Vortex wiped out the the labyrinth's lavender. Isabel Garcia, House Beautiful, "This Lavender Labyrinth Is Designed to Help You Relax," 11 June 2020 Placed into a scary labyrinth full of open tunnels, infected mice were also bolder than uninfected ones, cavorting around the maze while Toxoplasma-free rodents explored only cautiously. Katherine J. Wu, Smithsonian Magazine, "Brain Parasite Strips Rodents of Fears of Felines—and So Much More," 15 Jan. 2020 So, Darnold was lost in a labyrinth with no instruction manual. Manish Mehta,, "Pressure is on Jets coach Adam Gase to turn quarterback Sam Darnold into a star in 2020," 6 Aug. 2020 But that may prove cold comfort to Americans facing a labyrinth of confusion and disparate results in getting a lab result returned. Sy Mukherjee, Fortune, "Why COVID-19 testing in the U.S. is still plagued with delays and inconsistencies," 4 Aug. 2020

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

14 Sep 2020

Cite this Entry

“Labyrinth.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 18 Sep. 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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