\ ˈmēm How to pronounce meme (audio) \

Definition of meme

1 : an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture Memes (discrete units of knowledge, gossip, jokes and so on) are to culture what genes are to life. Just as biological evolution is driven by the survival of the fittest genes in the gene pool, cultural evolution may be driven by the most successful memes.— Richard Dawkins
2 : an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online especially through social media … the band encouraged fans to make memes to advertise the U.S. release of their EP …— William Gruger The grumpy cat meme frowned its way onto the Internet in September 2012 and never turned its dissatisfied head back. Since then, the image of the cranky cat has grown more and more popular in direct proportion to appearing less and less impressed by fame.— Anastasia Thrift

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from meme

memetic \ mē-​ˈme-​tik How to pronounce memetic (audio) , mə-​ \ adjective
… the exhibition seeks to give a sense not only of Holmes's origins but of the real-world milieu in which Conan Doyle set him and of his memetic spread through the culture. — Sam Leith

Did You Know?

In his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, British scientist Richard Dawkins defended his newly coined word meme, which he defined as "a unit of cultural transmission." Having first considered, then rejected, "mimeme," he wrote: "‘Mimeme’ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like ‘gene.’ I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate ‘mimeme’ to ‘meme.’" (The suitable Greek root was mim-, meaning "mime" or "mimic." The English suffix -eme indicates a distinctive unit of language structure, as in "grapheme," "lexeme," and "phoneme.") "Meme" itself, like any good meme, caught on fairly quickly, spreading from person to person as it established itself in the language.

Examples of meme in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web

And there was a moment of affection last year that became an instant meme. New York Times, "In Tennis, Hugging at the Net Is the New Handshake," 6 Sep. 2019 Doesn’t make for good Twitter memes or TV soundbites, though. Joseph Goodman |, al, "Strength of SEC football in question," 6 Sep. 2019 Now with more than 140,000 followers, Hey Reilly, who prefers to remain anonymous, is chock-full of fashion and pop culture memes meant to make its followers take a pause from their daily lives, think, and laugh. Sara Radin, Teen Vogue, "@hey_reilly is the Instagram Account Making the Funniest Fashion and Pop Culture Memes," 6 Sep. 2019 Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, Joe Biden and the rest of the gang also delivered plenty of smart and even actionable ideas — as well as meme-producing gaffes — in response to questions from Erin Burnett, Anderson Cooper, Chris Cuomo and Don Lemon. Los Angeles Times, "Commentary: Why Trump’s hurricane map overshadowed CNN’s climate town hall," 5 Sep. 2019 If the breakout rapper’s song itself didn’t inspire enough memes this year, this new video is sure to. Marcus Jones,, "‘Hot Girl Summer’ isn’t over yet! Check out the new music video for the Megan Thee Stallion track," 3 Sep. 2019 To shut down the hubbub once and for all, both Chopra and Jonas cleared the air in the best way possible on the Internet: via meme. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas Troll Fans Who Dragged Her for Forgetting His Age," 3 Sep. 2019 But unlike in 2014, when songs, slogans, and memes mostly referenced regional pop culture, this time the protesters are drawing on more global messages. Clarissa Pharr, Quartz, "Hong Kong protestors are using pop culture memes to stay visible to the world," 1 Sep. 2019 In some memes, people joked about how Floridians aren't scared of hurricanes. Ben Kesslen, NBC News, "Waiting for Dorian to hit, Floridians meme the time away," 30 Aug. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'meme.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of meme

1976, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for meme

alteration of mimeme, from mim- (as in mimesis) + -eme

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about meme

Listen to Our Podcast about meme

Statistics for meme

Last Updated

12 Sep 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for meme

The first known use of meme was in 1976

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for meme



English Language Learners Definition of meme

: an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from one person to another in a culture
: an amusing or interesting picture, video, etc., that is spread widely through the Internet

More from Merriam-Webster on meme

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with meme

Nglish: Translation of meme for Spanish Speakers

Comments on meme

What made you want to look up meme? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


concealment of treason or felony

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

The Exceptions Quiz III

  • one green toy robot amidst many red toy robots
  • Which of these words does not mean "nonsense"?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

Bee Cubed

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!