\ 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 meme (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 Whether running crude meme-and-troll shops or more extensive influence campaigns designed to turn people away from terrorism—as the U.S. State Department has done—information warfare is now a common practice for western governments. Jacob Silverman, The New Republic, "France Is Flooding Africa With Fake News," 28 Dec. 2020 By late August, as Taylor’s image entered peak circulation, the line between memorial and meme seemed discomfortingly thin. Reginald Dwayne Betts Kiese Makeba Laymon Carina Del Valle Schorske Dessa Irina Aleksander Sam Dolnick Mark Binelli Maggie Jones Rob Hoerburger Jamie Lauren Keiles Devin Gordon Jazmine Hughes Jenna Wortham Jade Chang Taffy Brodesser-akner Kaitlyn Greenidge Rowan Ricardo Phillips Michael Paterniti Wesley Morris Ismail Muhammad Anthony Giardina, New York Times, "Remembering some of the artists, innovators and thinkers we lost in the past year.," 23 Dec. 2020 The premise is simple, just match a caption to an iconic meme and the funniest card wins. Kate Tully Ellsworth, USA TODAY, "35 wildly popular gifts you can buy on Amazon right now," 2 Dec. 2020 Better than any bedazzled slogan or motivational meme, this would be proof that the world was theirs to conquer. Washington Post, "These girls were crushed when Hillary lost in 2016. Four years later, they’ve created their own strong female future.," 2 Nov. 2020 On the flip side, the name Karen saw a 13% decline in popularity following its popular use as a meme typically used against seemingly privileged or racist middle-aged White women. Allen Kim, CNN, "Kobe and Gianna are two rising baby names of 2020. Karen's on the decline," 22 Oct. 2020 But as the meme’s popularity exploded, its underlying meaning became common knowledge, thus diluting its power. Scott Hershberger, Scientific American, "Social Media Restrictions Cannot Keep Up with Hidden Codes and Symbols," 22 Oct. 2020 But beyond Nwigwe’s song, Taylor’s death began to take shape as a meme, often using the format of a misdirect where a person would tweet or post a video that at first appeared to be about a mundane task and then would pivot into a call for justice. NBC News, "A summer of digital protest: How 2020 became the summer of activism both online and offline," 26 Sep. 2020 The very famous and definitively inaccurate Lincoln quotation went viral in right-wing circles last year as a meme portraying progressive Democratic Reps. Erin Corbett,, "I’m So Sorry Lara Trump, But Abraham Lincoln Never Said That," 27 Aug. 2020

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

11 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Meme.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for meme


How to pronounce meme (audio)

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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Nglish: Translation of meme for Spanish Speakers

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