\ 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 The Brook Lopez clapping meme Brook Lopez had the big game on opening night, a 108-100 Milwaukee victory in which Lopez scored 29 points wiht 11 rebounds. Jr Radcliffe, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "One year later, these are the things we miss from last year's Eastern Conference Finals," 15 May 2020 For men's hair There have been countless memes circulating about how much men miss their barbers during quarantine. Shauna Beni, Condé Nast Traveler, "The Best At-Home Beauty Kits and Treatments, According to Experts," 13 May 2020 The Last Dance' is kind of a perfect meme artifact. NBC News, "'The Last Dance' is a ratings smash for ESPN. It's also creating an onslaught of Michael Jordan memes.," 13 May 2020 The youngest voters NextGen is targeting were in middle school when memes of Biden in aviator shades and a bomber’s jacket could be found online. Joe Garofoli,, "Young progressives aren’t thrilled about Biden. Some fear that will help Trump, again," 7 May 2020 Thinking in unison, like that Spider-Man meme where the two Spider-Men are pointing at each other. Dallas News, "New Cowboys CB Trevon Diggs is all business, thanks to advice from his brother Stefon," 1 May 2020 Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has become a meme sensation amid the coronavirus pandemic because of her unprecedented efforts to keep constituents at home. Tanya A. Christian, Essence, "House Party In Chicago Outrages Mayor," 28 Apr. 2020 All that love and dedication from fans means there are some amazing Marvel memes floating around the Internet. Kori Williams, Seventeen, "52 Hilarious Marvel Memes That Will Unleash Your Inner Avenger," 20 Apr. 2020 Shops are calling on people to stop the practice too, and social-media memes ridicule the hoarders. The Economist, "Stories of an extraordinary world Do you speak corona? A guide to covid-19 slang," 10 Apr. 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

22 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Meme.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 3 Jun. 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

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