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

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 In Germany, the decor, the spectacular use of great masses of people—the central myth itself was borrowed from grand opera. Alessandra Codinha, Vogue, "2 New Reasons to Binge-Watch Orson Welles Arrive on Netflix," 2 Nov. 2018 In the Navajo creation myth, the Diné (people) first appeared here, and this, for the tribe, is sacred land. Guy Trebay, Condé Nast Traveler, "In the Heart of Navajo Lands," 19 Oct. 2018 Pretty much every culture on Earth has some version of a vampire (or proto-vampire) myth. Jennifer Ouellette, Ars Technica, "Fifth-century child’s skeleton shows evidence of “vampire burial”," 13 Oct. 2018 September 2018: Popular Mechanics' special report debunking 9/11 myths first appeared in our March 2005 issue, and was subsequently made into a book. John Mccain, Popular Mechanics, "John McCain: The 9/11 Conspiracy Myths and the Truth Under Attack," 11 Sep. 2018 The first myth is that the American electorate’s embrace of Donald Trump, and the Republican Party’s broader adoption of xenophobic populism, were both products of the federal government’s persistent failure to secure our nation’s borders. Eric Leivtz, Daily Intelligencer, "For Democrats, Immigration Is a Political Problem Without a Policy Solution," 2 July 2018 All three shows are big on female bonding and friendship while blasting the myth that women are always catty and are way too busy sharpening their talons to give a sister a hand. Karla Peterson, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Meet the heroines of this summer's Must-See #MeToo TV," 29 June 2018 Whether this administration tries to solve the drug crisis, or leaves it for a future administration, any real fix will require rejecting the myth that controlling prices stymies innovation by cutting into bottom lines. Alexander Zaitchik, The New Republic, "How Big Pharma Was Captured by the One Percent," 28 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

17 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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Comments on myth

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