myth

noun

1
a
: 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.
2
a
: 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

Did you know?

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.

Example Sentences

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.
Recent Examples on the Web Lastly, the notion that precious metals are failure-proof is nothing but a myth. Omni Corp, The Salt Lake Tribune, 28 Nov. 2022 Brenson’s rich, authoritative biography conjures not only the man and his myth, but also the ruptures of modernity and the tensions between abstraction and representation, set against a backdrop of global change. Hamilton Cain, The Atlantic, 28 Nov. 2022 That’s clearly a myth that has been busted with 17 members of the U.S. roster playing either in England or for a major first-division club in Europe. Kevin Baxter, Los Angeles Times, 25 Nov. 2022 Too often, people buy into the myth that the first Thanksgiving dinner happened because the nice Pilgrims invited the Native Americans to look past their differences and break bread together to celebrate a good harvest. Noelle Devoe, Seventeen, 22 Nov. 2022 Kaplan recognizes the synergy produced when these themes overlap, as when Jefferson’s myth of a nation founded on yeomanry combined with his intense hatred of Britain to form the building blocks of his political ideology. Carol Berkin, Washington Post, 22 Nov. 2022 The chaotic mess at Twitter is rapidly eroding that myth. The Week Staff, The Week, 19 Nov. 2022 The twisted cabaret dynamos Kiki and Herb were never exclusively Christmastime visitors, but the holiday has long factored into their myth. The New Yorker, 18 Nov. 2022 That is the model minority myth encapsulated, right? Serena Puang, BostonGlobe.com, 19 June 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

1830, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Time Traveler
The first known use of myth was in 1830

Dictionary Entries Near myth

Cite this Entry

“Myth.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/myth. Accessed 4 Dec. 2022.

Kids Definition

myth

noun

1
: a story often describing the adventures of superhuman beings that attempts to describe the origin of a people's customs or beliefs or to explain mysterious events (as the changing of the seasons)
2
: a person or thing that exists only in the imagination
the dragon is a myth
3
: a popular belief that is false or unsupported

More from Merriam-Webster on myth

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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