\ 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 Popeyes released a chicken sandwich in August, creating a food fight with Chick-fil-A that would be the subject of many stories and memes. Briana Rice,, "Here is how you can get a free Popeyes chicken sandwich and Chick-fil-A nuggets this month," 14 Jan. 2020 Astrology memes have risen in popularity because people like it very much when someone boils down their entire being into highly specific, yet extremely broad, character traits. Tyler Coates, Wired, "'Which Character Are You?' Instagram Filters Are Radically Dumb," 14 Jan. 2020 In the two decades since, the song has taken on a life of its own, in the form of Twitter parody accounts, T-shirt slogans and countless Internet memes. Patrick Ryan, USA TODAY, "Exclusive: Matchbox Twenty announces summer tour, reflects on 'cheesy' legacy of 'Smooth'," 13 Jan. 2020 His Twitter followers have been quick to have a laugh at the quiz results, posting Gifs and memes that poke fun at the Las Vegas resident. Kelsey Hurwitz, Woman's Day, "James Holzhauer Took a Quiz to See What 'Jeopardy!: GOAT' Contestant He Is, and Got Ken Jennings," 9 Jan. 2020 The Young Pope, after all, did not merely bait meme-makers by imagining a pope who was also a pinup. Spencer Kornhaber, The Atlantic, "The New Pope’s Old Magic," 8 Jan. 2020 And though Twitter is packed with memes making fun of the trend, VSCO girls are actively creating a cleaner ocean by popularizing no-waste products. Kelsey Stiegman, Seventeen, "Hydro Flask is the VSCO Girl-Favorite Water Bottle All Over Instagram," 8 Jan. 2020 But other pages, like one focused on veterans but run from Vietnam, shared identical memes created by the IRA but with the page title cropped out. Alex Horton,, "Russian trolls target US veterans, but Trump administration isn’t fighting back, group says," 7 Jan. 2020 Hundreds of Twitter users posted messages and memes insinuating that the draft, or selective service, will be put into place within the next few months. Li Cohen, CBS News, "College students panic over FAFSA's fine print about registering for the draft," 6 Jan. 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

17 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Meme.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 24 January 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

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).


a feeling of well-being or elation

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