myth

noun
\ˈmith \

Definition of myth 

1a : a usually traditional story of ostensibly historical events that serves to unfold part of the world view of a people or explain a practice, belief, or natural phenomenon creation myths

b : parable, allegory Moral responsibility is the motif of Plato's myths.

2a : a popular belief or tradition that has grown up around something or someone especially : one embodying the ideals and institutions of a society or segment of society seduced by the American myth of individualism — Orde Coombs the utopian myth of a perfect society

b : an unfounded or false notion the myth of racial superiority

3 : a person or thing having only an imaginary or unverifiable existence the Superman myth The unicorn is a myth.

4 : the whole body of myths a student of Greek myth

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Myth and Urban Myth

For a word so often applied to events or stories from long, long ago, myth has a remarkably recent history in the English language. The earliest evidence for the word is from 1830, well after the time when the events themselves are thought to have occurred (though it should be noted that the related words mythology and mythic are hundreds of years older – still not as old as Achilles, but not young, either!). One application of myth, however – in the phrase urban myth – is quite new. Curiously, an urban myth does not usually have anything to do with the city: it is simply “a story about an unusual event or occurrence that many people believe is true but that is not true.” An example would be the tale that Elvis Presley is still alive after spending decades in a witness protection program. The phrase urban myth has been used to describe such hoaxes since at least 1971.

Examples of myth in a Sentence

It's an enduring myth that money brings happiness. I don't believe the myths and legends about this forest. Contrary to popular myth, no monster lives in this lake.
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Recent Examples on the Web

So what’s the source of the myth of American ignorance? Lily Rothman, Time, "'It's Not That the Story Was Buried.' What Americans in the 1930s Really Knew About What Was Happening in Germany," 10 July 2018 The lone cowboy taming the land with lasso and fortitude may fit the myth of the West, but the reality was quite different. Johnforristerross, Longreads, "Taming the Great American Desert," 2 July 2018 Filmmaker Cooke, who has a background in zoology, sifts through some of the most egregious myths about the animal kingdom and sets the record straight. Andrea Gawrylewski, Scientific American, "Debunking Animal Myths, the Truth about Time and Other New Science Books," 1 May 2018 But this is one of the greatest branding myths of all time.... [S]ince the global financial crash G20 nations have consistently increased protectionism, with painful consequences for ... African nations.... Monitor Editors, The Christian Science Monitor, "Tariffs miss the mark, Protectionism favors powerful nations, Children should not be targeted for taking a stand, Five Star Movement’s win in Italy continues a populist trend, Better avenues needed for reporting sexual harassment," 17 Mar. 2018 One of the persistent myths of Japan is that its people are timid, somehow, or unknowable. Hanya Yanagihara, Town & Country, "The Transporting Daily Ritual of the Japanese Evening Bath," 8 Dec. 2017 Rachel Devlin, an associate professor of history at Rutgers University, is looking to upend that myth. Melinda D. Anderson, The Atlantic, "The Forgotten Girls Who Led the School-Desegregation Movement," 30 May 2018 The study also dispelled the myth that only loners or those on the fringes of society attack. Paula Mcmahon, Sun-Sentinel.com, "Parkland school shooter: Typical of today's mass killers," 30 June 2018 The class dispels the myths that such records don’t exist. Linda Mcintosh, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Carlsbad Foundation gives 90K to fight homelessness," 25 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'myth.' 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 myth

1830, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for myth

earlier mythos, mythus, borrowed from Greek mŷthos "utterance, speech, discourse, tale, narrative, fiction, legend," of obscure origin

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Learn More about myth

Dictionary Entries near myth

mystifiedly

mystify

mystique

myth

mythi

mythical

mythicalness

Statistics for myth

Last Updated

3 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for myth

The first known use of myth was in 1830

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More Definitions for myth

myth

noun

English Language Learners Definition of myth

: an idea or story that is believed by many people but that is not true

: a story that was told in an ancient culture to explain a practice, belief, or natural occurrence

: such stories as a group

myth

noun
\ˈmith \

Kids Definition of myth

1 : a story often describing the adventures of beings with more than human powers that attempts to explain mysterious events (as the changing of the seasons) or that explains a religious belief or practice

2 : such stories as a group

3 : a person or thing existing only in the imagination The dragon is a myth.

4 : a popular belief that is not true It's just a myth that money can buy happiness.

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