\ 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 Pepe the Frog is an Internet meme frequently appropriated into racist memes and imagery on online message boards such as 4chan, 8chan, and Reddit., "Super Happy Fun America always claimed to be kidding. But the group’s history suggests otherwise.," 20 Feb. 2021 Laser eyes are a meme in the pro-Bitcoin internet community. Emily Brooks, Washington Examiner, "Laser-eyes Lummis: Wyoming senator changes profile picture to join in Bitcoin meme," 19 Feb. 2021 This one is a Valentine's Day meme intended to ridicule the Milwaukee Police Department. Daniel Bice, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Bice: County supervisor posts Valentine's Day meme mocking MPD over Molotov cocktail gaffe," 19 Feb. 2021 Though Sanders and his grandfatherly mittens were the dominant meme of the day, a GIF of Ella Emhoff, wagging her eyebrows as the Pences made their arrival, may prove to be the more lasting image of the moment. Rachel Syme, The New Yorker, "Jewel Tones and Bernie Sanders’s Mittens: Inauguration Day Fashion 2021," 21 Jan. 2021 Pepe, a humanoid cartoon frog created by artist Matt Furie, is an Internet meme appropriated by the far-right community online. Washington Post, "Identifying far-right symbols that appeared at the U.S. Capitol riot," 15 Jan. 2021 For better or worse, a lot of us were, once again, meme-ing our way through a national crisis. Michelle Santiago Cortés,, "The Insurrection Will Be Memed — & Maybe That’s Not A Bad Thing," 8 Jan. 2021 But Kendrick, 18, isn’t a nameless meme without a story, even though that’s how many across the country recognize him. Joseph Hoyt, Dallas News, "Meet Kendrick Blackshire, Duncanville’s Alabama-bound LB who’s more than just a viral sensation for his hulking figure," 31 Dec. 2020 Every year, these presidential debates are this spider man meme. NBC News, "These are the internet's favorite memes from the first presidential debate of 2020," 30 Sep. 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

28 Feb 2021

Cite this Entry

“Meme.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 5 Mar. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on meme

Nglish: Translation of meme for Spanish Speakers

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