meme

noun
\ ˈmēm \

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 , 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

As noted by Elite Daily, what was already pretty funny took an even more hilarious turn when some Twitter users decided to transform the prank into a solidly relatable meme. De Elizabeth, Teen Vogue, "Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal Play Holiday Prank on Ryan Reynolds," 22 Dec. 2018 Somehow, the Internet turned Spider-Man's heartbreaking disintegration from Infinity War into a meme. Erica Gonzales, Harper's BAZAAR, "22 Memes That Made 2018 Less Horrible," 17 Dec. 2018 His words and likeness have been turned into memes. Julia Lyon, Washington Post, "People are waiting in line. Is it Hamilton? No, it’s Bob Ross on YouTube.," 13 July 2018 The best response when the public turns your personal life into a meme? Leah Rodriguez, The Cut, "Rihanna Responds to Memes of Her Arguing With Boyfriend With a Meme of Her Own," 12 July 2018 However, this year 'Three Lions' became more than a song and transitioned into a meme. SI.com, "How Social Media Helped Create a Positive Atmosphere for England to Thrive in During World Cup Run," 12 July 2018 Of course, the internet took the photos and ran with them, turning the situation into a hilarious new meme. Sam Tornow, Billboard, "Here Are All of the Best Tweets About Rihanna Possibly Arguing With Her Boyfriend in Mexico," 11 July 2018 Thankfully, Shawn is okay and now his fans are having a little bit a fun by turning it all into a meme. Tamara Fuentes, Seventeen, "Shawn Mendes Fell Down on Stage During a Concert and Fans Are Freaking Out," 10 July 2018 As can be expected, almost immediately, Smith's blunder was turned into memes. Matt Young, Houston Chronicle, "Internet flooded with J.R. Smith memes after NBA Finals blunder," 1 June 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

3 Jan 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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