\ 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 The law clerk who finished at the court last year suggested the justices are also wary of camera footage being used to create memes for social media. Jeff John Roberts, Fortune, "The Supreme Court has shunned technology: Could coronavirus change that?," 22 Mar. 2020 On Reddit, forums for people with OCD are full of users sharing memes related to COVID-19 and their community, describing how social distancing is giving them more time to worry and asking for support with the fear that has taken hold of them. NBC News, "Coronavirus is a 'personal nightmare' for people with OCD and anxiety disorders," 19 Mar. 2020 In response to a recent tweet from Rashid about education funding, the 66-year-old sent a tweet with an offensive meme about Islam. Scottie Andrew, CNN, "A Muslim candidate responded to a man's Islamophobic tweet by donating to his medical fund - and spurred a friendship," 18 Mar. 2020 On Weibo, WeChat and Douyin, memes of quarantine boredom and stir-craziness proliferate. Belinda Kong, The Conversation, "How Chinese people came together when separated by quarantine, creating hope, humor and art," 18 Mar. 2020 In the mini-song department, a snippet of a tune on TikTok has inspired countless memes. Julie Hinds, Detroit Free Press, "Coronavirus inspires chart-topping, click-worthy songs to laugh and wash your hands by," 18 Mar. 2020 But both sides turned to memes to express their views on the matter. Megan Mccluskey, Time, "Fans Look to Memes as Tom Brady Says a Bittersweet Goodbye to the Patriots," 18 Mar. 2020 Most people who commented on the post sent prayers and healing memes and thanked Brock for her openness in sharing her experience. Ginger Christ, cleveland, "‘Summit County Case #2’ gives a face to the coronavirus pandemic," 15 Mar. 2020 The accounts’ posts reacted to real news events and popular memes. Jeremy B. Merrill, Quartz, "Russia apparently using Instagram to mess with US elections again," 13 Mar. 2020

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

27 Mar 2020

Cite this Entry

“Meme.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 6 Apr. 2020.

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More Definitions for meme


How to pronounce meme (audio)

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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