\ 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

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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

The drink has inspired a YouTube parody video, as well as a number of memes and trend pieces. Danielle Wiener-bronner, CNN, "Natural Light hard seltzer? Anheuser-Busch is leaning into the trend," 10 Aug. 2019 McNabb’s response, and his back-and-forth with Isbell, paralyzed social media with countless memes that poked fun at the idea of semiautomatic rifles as a vital tool in wild pig home defense. Alex Horton, Twin Cities, "Alex Horton: Think 30-50 feral hogs is a joke? Millions are rampaging across the country.," 8 Aug. 2019 Others share news links, memes and cautionary tales. Hallie Miller,, "The EDM industry tends to be male-centric. Here’s how Baltimore’s female DJs are trying to combat that.," 7 Aug. 2019 But where that site is best known for memes and political debates, 8chan’s topics tend to skew towards more controversial subjects and its contributors are largely people with extremist views. Chris Morris, Fortune, "What You Need to Know About 8chan, the Controversial Site Tied to the El Paso Shooting," 5 Aug. 2019 The combination of funny memes and references to beloved stories has earned the account a following of adoring fans. Madeline Fitzgerald, Time, "To Meme, or Not to Meme? Meet the 26-Year-Old Woman Behind SparkNotes' Genius Twitter Account," 30 July 2019 Those kinds of sentiments have multiplied on social media, which has exploded with memes in recent days calling the four everything from terrorists to harpies to cancer. Jeremy W. Peters, New York Times, "Pelosi. Clinton. Obama. Now ‘the Squad’ Is the New Target for the Right.," 27 July 2019 The firm has since evolved: investing more in making their pages look authentic and posting memes and photos rather than text, which are harder for algorithms to detect. Washington Post, "Why crafty Internet trolls in the Philippines may be coming to a website near you," 26 July 2019 But many teens report that vaping has maneuvered its way into school life and adolescent culture in the form of jokes, memes and lingo. Author: Moriah Balingit, Anchorage Daily News, "E-cigarettes spawn a form of teen addiction that worries doctors, parents and schools," 26 July 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.

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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

15 Aug 2019

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Time Traveler for meme

The first known use of meme was in 1976

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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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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with meme

Nglish: Translation of meme for Spanish Speakers

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