: 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
: 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
memetic 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." (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.) Like any good meme, meme caught on and evolved, eventually developing the meaning known to anyone who spends time online, where it's most often used to refer to any one of those silly captioned photos that the Internet can't seem to get enough of.

Examples of meme in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Want the latest beauty trend, TV show, or meme explained? Aimée Lutkin, ELLE, 10 Sep. 2023 The memes Bethesda games generate are, like their extensive mods, inseparable from their identity. Will Bedingfield, WIRED, 8 Sep. 2023 The movie unfolds as a relatively simple David-and-Goliath story — set to a sometimes profane hip-hop and rock soundtrack, with actual Reddit threads, TikTok memes and TV news footage occasionally peppering the screen in unconventional ways. Brooks Barnes, New York Times, 8 Sep. 2023 Cohen bought a $121 million stake in Bed Bath & Beyond in the first quarter of 2022 through his investment firm RC Ventures, but then abruptly sold his holdings just five months later after Bed Bath & Beyond soared in a meme stock rally, netting him a profit of over $60 million. Will Daniel, Fortune, 8 Sep. 2023 Pitchfork writer Alphonse Pierre’s rap column covers songs, mixtapes, albums, Instagram freestyles, memes, weird tweets, fashion trends—and anything else that catches his attention. Alphonse Pierre, Pitchfork, 8 Sep. 2023 Wagner, an artist who was primarily concerned with entanglements of earthly power and spiritual love, has no place in such a world, except as a source for cut-up musical memes. Utkin and Prigozhin succeeded in tarnishing Wagner’s name for a new generation. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, 2 Sep. 2023 At its peak in the mid-to-late 2010s, the app attracted tens of millions of users and inspired viral memes. Angela Yang, NBC News, 1 Sep. 2023 Wes Anderson’s visual style is perhaps among the most widely acknowledged and talked about of any contemporary directors, with countless videos, photos and memes claiming to have somehow replicated the supposedly trademark look and feel of his movies. Alex Ritman, The Hollywood Reporter, 1 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'meme.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


alteration of mimeme, from mim- (as in mimesis) + -eme

First Known Use

1976, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of meme was in 1976


Dictionary Entries Near meme

Cite this Entry

“Meme.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 22 Sep. 2023.

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