\ 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

Each episode was an event to be debated, dissected and quickly turned into glorious memes, which often were more entertaining than the show itself. Glenn Whipp,, "Emmys 2019: Five things to watch for ahead of nominations next week," 13 July 2019 Each episode was an event to be debated, dissected and quickly turned into glorious memes, which often were more entertaining than the show itself. Glenn Whipp,, "Emmys 2019: Five things to watch for ahead of the nominations," 12 July 2019 Emma Grey Ellis covers memes, trolls, and other elements of Internet culture for WIRED. Julie Muncy, WIRED, "Why the Momo Challenge Film Might Beat the Meme Movie Curse," 12 July 2019 Most of Good Morning America star Michael Strahan's Instagram feed is filled with memes, throwbacks, and cute photos with his pup, Enzo. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "'GMA' Fans Go NUTS Over Michael Strahan's Rare Instagram of His Kids," 12 July 2019 There is a line Nala has when fighting back that will no doubt become a meme, a gif and a new motto for her legion of fans. Bryan Alexander, USA TODAY, "Can Beyonce feel 'The Lion King' love? What critics are saying about her Nala performance," 11 July 2019 Social media goes crazy trying to soak up every #WojBomb, meme, rumor and bit of breaking news. David Harten, The Courier-Journal, "Fishing almost kept UK basketball star Willie Cauley-Stein from signing with the Warriors," 10 July 2019 From having the largest margin of victory in a single game to scoring the most goals in the entire series altogether — plus, Alex Morgan and Megan Rapinoe’s iconic memes — there’s no shortage of celebratory news for the U.S. team. Rachel E. Greenspan, Time, "All the Records the 2019 U.S. Women's Soccer Team Broke in This Year's World Cup," 7 July 2019 The meme, which Evans himself had a good laugh at, takes footage from the actor’s role in Not Another Teen Movie. Nick Romano,, "Mark Ruffalo marks July 4th with celebratory Captain America meme," 5 July 2019

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

18 Jul 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



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

Comments on meme

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


appealing forcibly to the mind or reason

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