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

His prior career working in business operations for an international logistics company in Moscow likely prepared him for the Kafkaesque labyrinth both of a baseball operation and MLB rules and regulations. BostonGlobe.com, "With Dave Dombrowski out, who’s in charge of the team fielded by the Red Sox?," 10 Sep. 2019 Thousands of people, most of them Haitian laborers and their families, lived in those two contiguous communities, labyrinths of rudimentary homes mostly built from plywood and two-by-fours. New York Times, "Corpses Strewn, People Missing a Week After Dorian Hit the Bahamas," 8 Sep. 2019 There’s also white-water rafting in Skagafjorour in the north (a part of Iceland that rarely gets explored), as well as visits to the lava labyrinths in Dimmuborgir. Judy Koutsky, Condé Nast Traveler, "A Disney Trip to Iceland Had All the Best Parts of Disney, and None of the Theme Parks," 2 Sep. 2019 The dancers express the labyrinth legend with visual vignettes. Dasun Imanuel, Essence, "Street Dance Evolves From The Subway To Centerstage In The Powerful Performance 'Maze'," 28 Aug. 2019 One was to have a labyrinth for the community on our property, but open to everyone. Phil Rockrohr, chicagotribune.com, "Shout Out: Mark Sundberg, longtime pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Lake Zurich who recently retired," 27 Aug. 2019 Family, friends and colleagues will share memories about the victims, and the event will conclude with a candlelight illumination of the hall’s labyrinth. Jean Marbella, baltimoresun.com, "'Far richer for having known them': One year later, Capital Gazette shooting victims remembered with garden," 28 June 2019 By 1814, the Harmonists grew to 700 members and had constructed 130 buildings, including factories, an inn, a tannery, a brewery, schools, a labyrinth, houses, and more. Diana Budds, Curbed, "This small Indiana town is a hotbed of utopianism," 5 Aug. 2019 Some of the oldest and longest burial tunnels in the world unfurl in a macabre labyrinth beneath Rome’s bustling streets. Meghan Miner Murray, National Geographic, "9 of Europe’s underground marvels," 2 Aug. 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

15 Sep 2019

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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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