meme

noun
\ 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

Last night’s event brought out the chatty in all social networks, and the memes came early and often. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, "Inclusion Was The Winner of the Democratic Debate: RaceAhead," 27 June 2019 Yahoo reports that when the Instagram meme account @beigecardigan shared the Billie clip, the comments were full of disapproving (and often remarkably ignorant) opinions. Marci Robin, Allure, "Billie’s New Ad Campaign Celebrates Personal Choice by Showing Unshaven Bikini Lines and Underarms [Update]," 27 June 2019 The memes are rolling in and the image of the night has to be Booker giving O'Rourke a bit of side-eye early in the debate. Jason Abbruzzese, NBC News, "Booker's side-eye gets traction on Twitter," 27 June 2019 If the reactions across social media are any indication, the moment is already a strong contender for the meme of summer 2019. Ashley Hoffman, Time, "This Photo of a Volleyball Smushing Leonardo DiCaprio in the Face Is Already Summer 2019's Finest Meme," 26 June 2019 Trouble is, memes are extremely difficult to reward. Emma Grey Ellis, WIRED, "MTV's 'Most Meme-Able Moment' Honors Internet Culture—Barely," 18 June 2019 Dylan checked it out and enjoyed the banter, but again, thought the meme would be forgotten soon enough. Andy Greder, Twin Cities, "How Minnesota United fans fueled a meme that became the ‘Dylan Wolpers Derby’," 17 June 2019 Many never even noticed their freckle before the meme went viral. Carolyn Twersky, Seventeen, "The Internet is Freaking Out Because All of These Women Have a Freckle in the EXACT Same Spot," 30 May 2019 The meme was never really about economic headwinds generated by lack of knowledge about government policy. Michael Hiltzik, latimes.com, "What became of the 'uncertainty' meme? As Trumponomics get more unpredictable, U.S. Chamber stops complaining," 25 June 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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Last Updated

4 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

meme

noun

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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