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

Keep scrolling for more

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.
See More

Recent Examples on the Web

At least in Massachusetts, though, the latest attempt at perpetuating the myth failed — and trans people remain protected under the law. German Lopez, Vox, "Massachusetts votes to keep transgender protections with Question 3," 7 Nov. 2018 The myth about the number's unlucky attributes continued to build throughout the 20th century, and in 1980, its place in the collective conscious — along with its connection to Friday — was solidified by the slasher film Friday the 13th. Aliza Kelly Faragher, Allure, "Why Do People Think the Number 13 Is Unlucky? Let's Talk About Triskaidekaphobia," 29 Aug. 2018 Cutting back on these nutritious foods for the purpose of weight loss can propagate myths about balanced diets. Jaclyn London, Ms, Rd, Cdn, Good Housekeeping, "The 5 Most Common Arguments for the Keto Diet, Debunked," 28 Aug. 2018 And that plays into so many patriarchal myths about women being dirty, that menstruation has toxins. Eric Johnson, Recode, "The internet’s favorite Goop critic Dr. Jen Gunter says ‘medical conspiracy theories’ are running amok online," 20 Aug. 2018 Unfortunately—and ironically—majorities in the congressional black and progressive caucuses joined Republicans in backing the House bill and perpetuating the damaging myth that cops are under attack. Karen Dolan, Fortune, "These 'Blue Lives Matter' Bills Send the Wrong Message on Race and Violence," 31 May 2018 But perpetuating that myth is how the wealthy get to be in control of our political system. Jeffrey Mervis, Science | AAAS, "Postdoc hopes Pennsylvania voters will help her re-engineer how to run for Congress," 7 May 2018 The presumption that equal resources would generate equal opportunity has also perpetuated the myth that money doesn’t matter in education. Jack Schneider, The Atlantic, "What School-Funding Debates Ignore," 22 Jan. 2018 Waking up with perfect skin and hair sounds like a myth reserved for the realm of rom-coms. Lauren Swanson, Allure, "15 Pillowcases That'll Transform Your Hair and Skin for the Better," 13 Nov. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about myth

Dictionary Entries near myth

mystifiedly

mystify

mystique

myth

mythi

mythical

mythicalness

Statistics for myth

Last Updated

1 Dec 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for myth

The first known use of myth was in 1830

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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.

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on myth

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with myth

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for myth

Spanish Central: Translation of myth

Nglish: Translation of myth for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of myth for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about myth

Comments on myth

What made you want to look up myth? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

to enclose within walls

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!