mi·​me·​sis | \ mə-ˈmē-səs How to pronounce mimesis (audio) , mī- \

Definition of mimesis

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Mimesis is a term with an undeniably classical pedigree. Originally a Greek word, it has been used in aesthetic or artistic theory to refer to the attempt to imitate or reproduce reality since Plato and Aristotle. Mimesis is derived from the Greek verb mimeisthai, which means "to imitate" and which itself comes from mimos, meaning "mime." The English word mime also descends from mimos, as do mimic and mimicry. And what about mimeograph, the name of the duplicating machine that preceded the photocopier? We can't be absolutely certain what the folks at the A. B. Dick Company had in mind when they came up with Mimeograph (a trademark name that has since expired), but influence from mimos and its descendants certainly seems probable.

Examples of mimesis in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The picture surface sizzles and sweats and droops in mimesis of the weather, while the bands of aerated brick and orange that organize the landscape capture the temperature, too. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, 21 Feb. 2022 One implication of the Girardian theory of mimesis is that those who are scapegoated represent the broader collective’s vulnerabilities and transgressions. Anna Wiener, The New Yorker, 27 Oct. 2021 What Aristotle [also] said that is relevant is that tragedy is mimesis: the imitation of an action of life. Justin Curto, Vulture, 21 Sep. 2021 Not long after, with photography ascendant and painting shifting away from straightforward mimesis, trompe l’oeil lost its hold on the public imagination. New York Times, 11 Aug. 2021 The voice is inherently communal, learned through mimesis and language, and interpreted through individuals. Zoe Haylock, Vulture, 14 July 2021 The various returns to (or re-volcanic-eruptions of) figurative image-making in current art make Saul’s multifarious tropes a handy visual thesaurus for engaging the mind through corporeal mimesis. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 10 Feb. 2020 And there’s the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea, an account of something far kinkier than misperception: a work of art not merely resembling a human being but actually coming to life, the ultimate sculpture as mimesis. Karen Wilkin, WSJ, 26 Mar. 2018 Therein lies the danger of Trumpian mimesis: Emulating the president means embodying his worldview, however briefly or satirically. Katy Waldman, Slate Magazine, 28 Feb. 2017 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'mimesis.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of mimesis

circa 1586, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for mimesis

Late Latin, from Greek mimēsis, from mimeisthai

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The first known use of mimesis was circa 1586

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Cite this Entry

“Mimesis.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/mimesis. Accessed 6 Jul. 2022.

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Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about mimesis


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