\ 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 meme (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 One satirical meme claims to show a fake Twitter thread between Epstein and Bill Gates, both frequent conspiracy theory targets. Devon Link, USA TODAY, "Fact check: Satire page shares fake Twitter thread between Bill Gates and Jeffrey Epstein," 14 Apr. 2021 TikTokkers are, whether consciously or not, tapping into a similar impulse, taking scores of influences—video art, remix, meme culture, dance—and turning them into something new. Angela Watercutter, Wired, "TikTok Duets Are Reviving the Exquisite Corpse," 12 Apr. 2021 All are part of the new meme economy, where careening Internet enthusiasms get converted into big money. Kyle Chayka, The New Yorker, "How Beeple Crashed the Art World," 22 Mar. 2021 Before all of that, though, Aneesa is recuperating from the events of the Crater that left her looking like that disoriented SpongeBob meme. Kyndall Cunningham, Vulture, "The Challenge: Double Agents Recap: Shook Ones," 18 Mar. 2021 First, there were the reactions to Oprah’s sharp interviewing skills and meme-worthy responses. Lydia Wang,, "Can We Talk About These Meghan Markle Interview Memes? Because They’re Perfect," 9 Mar. 2021 Fans watched not only to keep up with the story, but also—and perhaps more importantly—to be able to take part in the intense theorizing, meme-making, and Easter egg–hunting that tended to start even before an episode ended. Shirley Li, The Atlantic, "How WandaVision Became the New Appointment TV," 5 Mar. 2021 Several likened the rally to recent surges in other highly speculative assets, like cryptocurrencies or meme stocks, warning that inexperienced buyers could suffer rapid reversals. Sebastian Pellejero, WSJ, "After NFT Surge, Traders Worry Reopening Will Stifle Rally," 31 Mar. 2021 Dandelions contain 112% daily value of vitamin A and 535% daily value for vitamin K, as the meme claims. Mckenzie Sadeghi, USA TODAY, "Fact check: Viral meme on benefits of dandelions is partly false," 30 Mar. 2021

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

17 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Meme.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 21 Apr. 2021.

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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

Nglish: Translation of meme for Spanish Speakers

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