: an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online especially through social media
… the band encouraged fans to make memes to advertise the U.S. release of their EP …William Gruger
The grumpy cat meme frowned its way onto the Internet in September 2012 and never turned its dissatisfied head back. Since then, the image of the cranky cat has grown more and more popular in direct proportion to appearing less and less impressed by fame.Anastasia Thrift
: an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture
Memes (discrete units of knowledge, gossip, jokes and so on) are to culture what genes are to life. Just as biological evolution is driven by the survival of the fittest genes in the gene pool, cultural evolution may be driven by the most successful memes.Richard Dawkins
memetic adjective
… the exhibition seeks to give a sense not only of Holmes's origins but of the real-world milieu in which Conan Doyle set him and of his memetic spread through the culture. Sam Leith

Did you know?

In his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, British scientist Richard Dawkins defended his newly coined word meme, which he defined as "a unit of cultural transmission." Having first considered, then rejected, mimeme, he wrote: "Mimeme comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like gene." (The suitable Greek root was mim-, meaning "mime" or "mimic." The English suffix -eme indicates a distinctive unit of language structure, as in grapheme, lexeme, and phoneme.) Like any good meme, meme caught on and evolved, eventually developing the meaning known to anyone who spends time online, where it's most often used to refer to any one of those silly captioned photos that the Internet can't seem to get enough of.

Examples of meme in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Naturally, some fans responded to the news with gifs, memes, and jokes. Char Adams, NBC News, 15 Nov. 2023 At their best, fakes—gifs, memes, and the like—condense complex thoughts into clarifying, rousing images. Daniel Immerwahr, The New Yorker, 13 Nov. 2023 That can come in many forms, like emojis, gifs, and memes, or just jokes. Ryan Hogg, Fortune Europe, 10 Nov. 2023 There have been articles, memes, and even a New Yorker cartoon dedicated to his character's appeal. Nigel Smith, Peoplemag, 9 Nov. 2023 Countless artists, models, writers, and other creatives, along with endless memes, got their start on a site that will always be difficult to explain to those who haven't experienced it. Kevin Purdy, Ars Technica, 9 Nov. 2023 So, to help jog your memory, Vogue has rounded up the best memes of 2023. Abrigail Williams, Vogue, 6 Nov. 2023 The sketch caused a firestorm of internet memes and a deluge of nasty emails from Patriots fans. Timothy Bella, Washington Post, 3 Nov. 2023 The film’s spell in the media sunshine was only extended when in March it was suddenly pulled from cinemas in Hong Kong having unwittingly strayed into a Chinese crackdown on Winnie-the-Pooh imagery that was sparked by memes likening the character to Xi Jinping. Alex Ritman, The Hollywood Reporter, 3 Nov. 2023 See More

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

Word History


alteration of mimeme, from mim- (as in mimesis) + -eme

First Known Use

1976, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of meme was in 1976


Dictionary Entries Near meme

Cite this Entry

“Meme.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 28 Nov. 2023.

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