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Douglas Harper's Etymology Dictionary

1976, introduced by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in "The Selfish Gene," coined by him from Greek sources, such as mimeisthai "to imitate" (see mime), and intended to echo gene.\n\nWe need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. 'Mimeme' comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like 'gene'. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme. If it is any consolation, it could alternatively be thought of as being related to 'memory', or to the French word même. It should be pronounced to rhyme with 'cream'.

[Richard Dawkins, "The Selfish Gene," 1976]


n. 1 Any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another in a comparable way to the transmission of genes. 2 (context Internet slang English) Something that is copied and circulated online with slight adaptions, including quizzes, basic pictures, video templates etc. A meme can be a photo or artwork, usually with text, often codified with a distinct white block lettering text on the image. If a particular, standardized image is used, there is a protocol to how it should be used


n. a cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one generation to another by nongenetic means (as by imitation); "memes are the cultrual counterpart of genes"


A meme is "an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture". A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.

Proponents theorize that memes are a viral phenomenon that may evolve by natural selection in a manner analogous to that of biological evolution. Memes do this through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance, each of which influences a meme's reproductive success. Memes spread through the behavior that they generate in their hosts. Memes that propagate less prolifically may become extinct, while others may survive, spread, and (for better or for worse) mutate. Memes that replicate most effectively enjoy more success, and some may replicate effectively even when they prove to be detrimental to the welfare of their hosts.

A field of study called memetics arose in the 1990s to explore the concepts and transmission of memes in terms of an evolutionary model. Criticism from a variety of fronts has challenged the notion that academic study can examine memes empirically. However, developments in neuroimaging may make empirical study possible. Some commentators in the social sciences question the idea that one can meaningfully categorize culture in terms of discrete units, and are especially critical of the biological nature of the theory's underpinnings. Others have argued that this use of the term is the result of a misunderstanding of the original proposal.

The word meme originated with Richard Dawkins' 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins's own position is somewhat ambiguous: he welcomed N. K. Humphrey's suggestion that "memes should be considered as living structures, not just metaphorically" and proposed to regard memes as "physically residing in the brain". Later, he argued that his original intentions, presumably before his approval of Humphrey's opinion, had been simpler. At the New Directors' Showcase 2013 in Cannes, Dawkins' opinion on memetics was deliberately ambiguous.

Meme (disambiguation)

A meme is a term referring to a unit of cultural information transferable from one mind to another.

Meme, or MEME, may also refer to:

Meme (Rurutia album)

" is Rurutia's fourth and last original album under Toshiba-EMI and was released April 13, 2005.

Meme (department)

' Meme' is a department of Southwest Province in Cameroon. The department covers an area of 3,105 km² and as of 2001 had a total population of 300,318.The capital of the department lies at Kumba.

Meme (band)

Meme is an indie-pop music project created by producer Danny Burke and singer/lyricist Lizzie Brown based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The couple began making music together after hours at In the Groove Music's studio where Danny Burke works as a producer and songwriter. The group's sound combines Lizzie Brown's ethereal pop voice and sense of melody with Danny Burke's ambient electro-acoustic songs. The group has been featured on multiple television shows and movies including Jersey Shore, Gossip Girl, From Prada to Nada, and The Real L Word. Meme's first self-titled disc was released in the summer of 2010. Their second disc, Primary Colours, is scheduled to release in the summer of 2011.

Usage examples of "meme".

Ainsi Achille voulut que ses cendres fussent melees a celles de Patrocle sous le meme tertre funeraire.

Plus qa change, plus cest la meme chose, she quoted silently to herself.

Maintenant, autre question a laquelle tu dois repondre avec la meme franchise: que penses-tu du duc de Naurouse?

Elle dit aussi que, quand meme la fille aurait consenti a son enlevement ou suivi volontairement son ravisseur, si celui-ci est majeur de vingt-un ans ou au-dessus, il sera condamne aux travaux forces a temps.

Et, huit jours apres, il rapportait, dans la meme toilette verte, un costume irreprochable.

Mais si moi aussi je suis un homme de coeur, je suis en meme temps un homme de raison.

Dans une bouche comme la tienne, avec des levres comme les tiennes, des dents comme les tiennes, les sottises meme sont charmantes.

Il ne pouvait pas rester enferme toute la journee, tournant et retournant la meme pensee, voyant et revoyant toujours la meme image.

Il entra chez lui, se disant que le lendemain ce serait la meme chose, puis le surlendemain, puis toujours ainsi.

Sur un autre sujet plus delicat que Dayelle avait traite avec toutes sortes de menagements, elle avait repondu sur le meme ton.

They talked about preconscious flow and cultural memes and the ambient psychosexual subtext.

Cependant Sauval, qui continuait a rester calme dans son stoicisme scientifique, et a voir tres clair, poursuivait ses recherches en repetant son meme mot: --Patience!

Vierge de Lourdes est obligeante, serviable, entendue, empressee, je dirai meme obsequieuse.

Dans la meme seance, le Conseil de Guerre a prononce contre dix-sept autres accuses de trahison envers les Armees Imperiales, des comdamnations de travaux forces et de prison variant entre deux ans et huit ans.

Pour le meme motif, ont ete condamnes a quince ans de travaux forces: Hermann CAPIAU, Ingenieur a Wasmes.