\ 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 The term is a meme among stock traders on Reddit, who use it when making irresponsible bets that sometimes pay off anyway. New York Times, "Welcome to the YOLO Economy," 21 Apr. 2021 The doge’s reign came to an end in the late 18th Century when the diminutive Frenchman, Napoleon—no doubt himself the subject of many a meme in his day—conquered Venice. Bernhard Warner, Fortune, "Stocks up, crypto down—Bitcoin’s weekend sell-off rattles the markets," 19 Apr. 2021 So cinephiles—including many here at Wired—have raged against this feature for years, to the point that it's become a meme starring Tom Cruise. Whitson Gordon, Wired, "I Use Motion Smoothing on My TV—and Maybe You Should Too," 6 Apr. 2021 Or are they entertained - is there a meme or a pop culture reference or a joke that will leave them chuckling? Lisa Curtis, Forbes, "Five Things Your Brand Is Doing Wrong On Instagram," 11 Mar. 2021 Twitter users also posted many a meme in reference to the song. David Oliver, USA TODAY, "'Only good thing that happened in 2020': Aly & AJ drop explicit 'Potential Breakup Song'," 30 Dec. 2020 She’s meme-ified as a would-be savior from Trumpism in her red coat and black sunglasses, or going viral in suffragist white as the ultimate troll for condescendingly clapping at the former president’s State of the Union. Washington Post, "Nancy Pelosi: A study in power," 20 Apr. 2021 The website nods to its joke origins at the very top: Its Shiba Inu mascot is the first image on the page, mimicking the meme that inspired it, which features the same dog surrounded by a bunch of Comic Sans text in broken English. David Goldman, CNN, "What is Dogecoin? How a joke became hotter than bitcoin," 17 Apr. 2021 Sprite is a storied meme, one so successful the two words have become building blocks for countless others. Michelle Santiago Cortés,, "Does McDonald’s Sprite Taste Spicy? A Very Serious Investigation," 12 Apr. 2021

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 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Meme.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 May. 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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