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

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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 In a strong bid for mimesis, the same cuts seemed to be happening to America, the country that, like my parents, both birthed and plagued me: the same unknowing, the same uncertainty, the same darkness descending on the horizon and creeping ever closer. New York Times, 18 July 2022 Issue 2 is also an exercise in mimesis. The Editors, Los Angeles Times, 26 May 2021 By condensing Balzac’s opus to a few paragraphs, Barthelme was having a laugh not just at his predecessor’s genteel circumlocution—his tendency to describe buildings and manufacturing procedures and family trees in lavish detail—but also at the conventions of novelistic mimesis itself. Giles Harvey, The New York Review of Books, 23 Apr. 2020 Reed begins slowly and accelerates to double time, mimicking a drug rush, words tumbling out in neurochemical mimesis, then settling down, language succumbing to opiate blankness. Will Hermes, Rolling Stone, 13 Sep. 2022 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 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'mimesis.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


Late Latin, from Greek mimēsis, from mimeisthai

First Known Use

circa 1586, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
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 24 Sep. 2023.

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