\ˈmēm \

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

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Other Words from meme

memetic \mē-ˈme-tik, 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

That same officer posted a racist meme of Golden State Warriors star Kevin Durant, according to a screenshot from the lawsuit. Washington Post, "Bucks’ Sterling Brown sues Milwaukee over stun-gun arrest," 19 June 2018 Browse through the photos above for some of the best memes from Thursday's Game 5. Demetrio Teniente, Houston Chronicle, "Memes rejoice as Rockets win a wild Game 5," 24 May 2018 See the best memes and the royal wedding kid photos below. Ashley Hoffman, Time, "The Smiling Kid Behind Meghan Markle Is the Breakout Star of the Royal Wedding," 19 May 2018 The Republican candidate vying for Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s congressional seat was kicked off Wypipo Twitter Monday for posting a racist meme about actress and Prince Harry’s bride-to-be, Meghan Markle. Michael Harriot, The Root, "Racist Republican Running Against Paul Ryan Banned From Twitter," 13 Feb. 2018 Earlier this week, Snoop Dogg posted an Instagram meme, calling attention to the heroic work singer Akon has been doing in Africa. Simedar Jackson, Marie Claire, "Snoop Dogg, Chris Brown Post Offensive Instagram About Caitlyn Jenner, Kylie Jenner Fires Back," 6 June 2015 His fans make memes about his parents, his former employers, and his childhood photos. Adrian Chen, The New Yorker, "Ice Poseidon’s Lucrative, Stressful Life as a Live Streamer," 8 Dec. 2014 On many issues, Buckley remains the firebrand re-poster of conservative memes on Facebook. Washington Post, "In the Army and the Klan, he hated Muslims.," 5 June 2018 Instead of just getting angry (or keeping their pits at home) Black Oaklanders threw a protest cookout, and Black Twitter turned the caller into a series of hilarious memes. Britni Danielle,, "Black Twitter Strikes Again: White Woman Who Called Police On Black Family Becomes A Hilarious Meme," 15 May 2018

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.

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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

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Last Updated

10 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for meme

The first known use of meme was in 1976

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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

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