\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 one of this year's honorees, Teigen delivered a speech at the Women of the Year awards that was hilarious, personal, honest, tearful, and, yes, meme-able. Glamour, "Chrissy Teigen's Glamour 2018 Women of the Year Speech Is the Best Thing You'll See Today," 12 Nov. 2018 Among other meme-able moments were the many, many appearances of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s top hat, and everyone’s reactions to Glenn and Jen. Vogue, "These Were the Best Memes From the 2018 Emmys," 18 Sep. 2018 If my route for the day seems to be lacking in humorous stimuli, simply recalling a funny story or meme I’d heard or seen recently can do the trick. Wellesley Boboc, SELF, "7 Easy Things That Have Helped Me Stop Hate Running and Actually Kind of Enjoy It," 15 Nov. 2018 As one meme on Tumblr puts it, the K/DA music video is something that K-pop enthusiasts, League fans, and the LGBTQ+ community all enjoyed. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "League of Legends’ virtual K-pop band is helping the game attract a whole new audience," 11 Nov. 2018 The directors of Universal's new animated reboot of The Grinch looked in many different places for inspiration to remake the holiday classic — and even turned to memes for the creation of one particular character. Isabella Gomez, Teen Vogue, "Viral Taylor Swift Goat Mashup Video Inspires "The Grinch" Movie Scene," 11 Nov. 2018 Sayoc’s social media accounts are peppered with memes supporting Trump, and denigrating Democrats. Michael Biesecker, The Seattle Times, "Bomb suspect: Ex-stripper with cash problems, Trump devotion," 27 Oct. 2018 In its feed are memes of men walking in wolf packs wearing the exact same bland gray or navy fleece vest. Brooke Bobb, Vogue, "Outdoor Voices Is Launching Fleeces That Are the Anti-Version of the #MidtownUniform," 24 Oct. 2018 Some England fans, however, have demonstrated their creative genius by unleashing some hilarious memes on various social media sites., "It's Coming Home: 6 of the Best England World Cup Memes of the Summer So Far," 11 July 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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Statistics for meme

Last Updated

5 Dec 2018

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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



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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What made you want to look up meme? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the figure or shape of a crescent moon

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