\ 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

Whether that’s the Queen’s English, emojis, memes, or nudes, is your burden and data plan to bear. Lauren Hubbard, Town & Country, "The Etiquette Secrets of Proper Texting," 30 Apr. 2019 One user even posted a meme of someone rising from a casket—Rihanna's new music all waking us up from the dead, perhaps. Christian Allaire, Vogue, "Rihanna Is the Latest Pop Star to Confirm New Music Coming in 2019," 23 Dec. 2018 Although everyone looked elated to pose together in a living room, Kendall hilariously poked fun at the sweet family moment with a meme in the following slide. Nicole Saunders, Harper's BAZAAR, "Kendall Jenner Just Trolled Her Sisters with an Epic Pregnancy Meme on Instagram," 26 Apr. 2019 Below is a roundup of the most hilarious tweets, memes, and reactions from Kendall Jenner, John Legend, Gabrielle Union, plus more people weighing in on this hilarious and historic moment. Nicole Saunders, Harper's BAZAAR, "Twitter Reacts to Dwyane Wade Crashing Into Chrissy Teigen and John Legend," 11 Apr. 2019 It's been the subject of memes and parodies and tweets. Marisa Lascala, Good Housekeeping, "Singing Baby Shark Toys Are Here to Get That Song Stuck In Your Head Forever," 30 Nov. 2018 Twitter is flooded with memes and jokes comparing its set-up to Suspiria, The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, The Handmaid's Tale, and, yes, The Shining. Christopher Rosa, Glamour, "Twitter Is Screaming Over the White House's Eerie Christmas Decorations," 26 Nov. 2018 Obviously everyone was so upset and the character's death elicited thousands of tweets, memes, and hashtags. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "11 Things to Know About "Sierra Burgess is a Loser" Star Shannon Purser," 23 Aug. 2018 While Takei is vocal in his political activism, his social media presence is mostly lighthearted, sharing funny videos, memes and thoughts with his slew of followers. Tyler Mccarthy, Fox News, "George Takei explains new Trump-inspired app, says 'democracy is a very fragile thing'," 31 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

23 May 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).


to speak slightingly about or to degrade

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