meme

noun
\ 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

Interest in the meme has been spiking again all spring. Emma Grey Ellis, WIRED, "Why You Can't Look Away From #CursedImages," 14 June 2019 The best qualities of this bar are the various online memes inspired by the commercial. Lucas Kwan Peterson, latimes.com, "The official candy bar power rankings," 11 June 2019 Prosecutors also showed the judge the racist memes found on Urbanski’s phone. Washington Post, "Judge allows racist FB page as evidence in fatal stabbing," 6 June 2019 The meme featured a picture of a dancing baby and a racial slur. Andrew Kenney, The Denver Post, "In the Denver mayor’s race, it’s 1995 all over again," 4 June 2019 Mike calls him a psychopath, and Luke P. pulls up the definition of psychopath on his phone in an aside and says that's the opposite of him. Luke P. is seen clenching his fist in what will surely be compared to the meme of Arthur. David Oliver, USA TODAY, "'The Bachelorette' recap: The stage is set for epic showdown between Luke P. and Luke S.," 3 June 2019 Browse through the photos at the top of the page for a look at the best memes and Internet reactions to this week's episode of The Bachelorette. Matt Young, Houston Chronicle, "Battle of the Lukes: Best memes from Episode 4 of ABC's 'The Bachelorette'," 3 June 2019 By late April, the meme went viral, appearing on sites like Buzzfeed and in YouTube videos. Joey Morona, cleveland.com, "Justin Timberlake's 'It's gonna be May' meme, explained," 1 May 2018 Regarding visual media, impactive everyday behaviors include responding to a thread with a GIF or reaction image featuring random everyday strangers, or posting (and/or remixing) the latest meme to comment on the news of the day. Casey Newton, The Verge, "How Kevin Hart tweeted himself out of a job hosting the Oscars," 8 Dec. 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

20 Jun 2019

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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

meme

noun

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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with meme

Nglish: Translation of meme for Spanish Speakers

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