Meme Meaning: What Does “Meme” Mean?

Memes have become an integral part of internet culture, providing a means of communication that often carries a humorous or satirical message. They are typically images or videos with accompanying text that spreads virally from person to person, conveying a point of view on cultural symbols, social ideas, or current events. Originating from the Greek word ‘mimema,’ meaning imitated, British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins introduced the term “meme” in his 1976 work, The Selfish Gene.

These cultural units of information often spread rapidly, gaining traction through social media and other online platforms. Memes often tap into universal experiences, addressing relatable topics and capturing the essence of a moment in time. As a result, they act as snapshots of the collective consciousness, reflecting popular narratives and themes. Thanks to their easily shareable nature, memes continue to evolve and adapt to new situations, making them an ever-present part of our digital lives.

Key Takeaways

  • Memes are cultural units of information that spread virally, typically addressing social ideas or current events with a humorous or satirical tone.
  • Originally introduced by Richard Dawkins in 1976, memes often capture relatable experiences and reflect popular narratives within the collective consciousness.
  • Due to their easily shareable nature, memes continue to evolve and adapt as a captivating and engaging part of our digital lives.

Meme Meaning

What Does Meme Mean?

A ‘meme’ is an element such as videos, texts, and photos that are found to be humorous and passed from person to person for mutual enjoyment. In today’s time, they are most commonly captioned photos that get passed around the internet.

Origin of Meme

‘Meme’ is actually an abbreviated version of the Greek word ‘mimeme’. That’s definition is something that is imitated.

In 1976 author Richard Dawkins was forced to defend his newly created word ‘meme’ that he used in his book ‘The Selfish Gene’. Yes, he was worried people wouldn’t take kindly to his version of spelling the Greek word mimeme, however that didn’t stop him and it quickly caught on taking root among the American langue.

Related Terms to Meme

In the world of memes, there are various terms that are closely related to the concept of meme meaning. Let’s explore a few of these terms to better understand their association with memes.

Viral content is often associated with memes because of their ability to spread quickly through social media. Viral content can be any form of media, such as photos, videos, or text, that gains popularity and gets shared by a large number of people in a short amount of time. A successful meme typically becomes viral due to its relatability, humor, or unique message.

Internet slang is another element often found in memes. As memes spread through online communities, they often incorporate internet slang to convey their message more effectively. This type of language consists of abbreviations, acronyms, and shorthand phrases that make communication quicker and easier. For example, phrases like “lol” (laughing out loud) or “omg” (oh my god) are widely recognized internet slang used in memes.

Trending topics are frequent sources of inspiration for meme creators. As events unfold and new trends emerge, memes are generated to highlight these happenings, often adding a humorous or satirical twist. This connection between memes and trending topics helps to keep memes relevant and fresh, constantly adapting to the cultural zeitgeist.

Meme formats provide a framework for creators to work with when making memes. These templates offer a recognizable structure for the meme’s message, which can be easily customized to fit a specific situation or idea. Examples of meme formats include “distracted boyfriend,” “expanding brain,” or “two buttons.” By utilizing familiar formats, memes can effectively convey their message while maintaining a sense of familiarity for the audience.

Similar Slang Words

“Mimic” – Like finding a hidden chest within your favorite game, just to find out it isn’t what it appears. (Greek spelling ‘mim’ stands for mime or mimic.)

Meme Examples

Texting, Social Posts

As memes can be created using different types of media, they often take the form of images, videos, text, or even a combination of these elements to convey a message. A common type of meme is an image with a witty caption, often related to current events, pop culture, or funny situations that resonate with people.

Text-based memes, on the other hand, usually consist of a short statement or phrase that can be easily copied and shared. Some examples include slang terms, puns, or jokes, which make their way into texting and social media conversations due to their humorous and catchy nature.

Social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook are well-known for the proliferation of memes. Users on these platforms often share and reshare memes as a way to connect with their online community, engage in diverse conversations, and make light of situations or events.

An internet meme’s popularity is determined by how widely it spreads and how quickly it gains traction on social media. The more a meme is shared, engaged with, and adapted, the greater its cultural significance and influence become.

One notable example is the use of reaction memes, where a picture, GIF, or video is used to communicate a specific emotion or response in online communication. These visuals often feature a popular TV show or movie character, athlete, or even a regular person whose facial expression or body language accurately captures a particular sentiment.

Another type of popular meme is the political meme, which often relates to news events or political topics, providing both commentary and humor on real-world issues. In this context, memes can serve as a form of creative expression or even protest, offering a unique and engaging perspective on the subject matter.

Conversation Examples

Here is how ‘meme’ is normally used.

Example 1:

A boy waiting in a bathroom stall for his friends writes, ‘Jimmy was here.’ on the walls for all to see. Causing the next boy who seen what he had written to do the same in the next restroom he visits.

Example 2:

A photo with a black screen that says, ‘I text back either 30 times way to fast or 6 days later way too late, I have no in-between.’ The image is then shared from facebook wall and posts among people around the internet.

Example 3:

Photo of Kermit the frog staring into a mirror. Kermit is clearly sad and very overweight. The caption on the top of the photo reads, ‘Me: I need to start getting healthy and eating right.’ Followed by a caption on the bottom of the photo that reads, ‘Me: I deserved one more treat.’.

This photo gets passed around a ton from one Instagram user to the next, it shows the poor frog Kermit trying to be healthy, but sadly doing what we all do. Making bad decisions and saying this one more piece of cake won’t hurt anything.

Example 4:

A photo that is of a young child roughly 3 or 4 years old setting in the front seat of a car gripping the steering wheel tight and glaring at whoever is taking the photo. The caption on the top of the photo says, ‘ Me when I finally get next to the person who cut me off.’ A clear image showing how we all feel when driving and someone cuts in front of us.

More about Meme Terminology

The term “meme” was coined by British scientist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, The Selfish Gene. He used it as a unit of cultural information, comparing memes to genes in biological evolution. The word “meme” itself is derived from the Greek term “mimeme,” meaning “imitated thing,” and was chosen for its similarity to the word “gene” and monosyllable structure.

Memes are symbols, ideas, or behaviors that are transmitted from person to person within a culture, often undergoing variations and changes through imitation. They encompass a wide range of cultural phenomena, including catchphrases, images, gifs, and even viral videos. Memes play a prominent role in the digital world, particularly on social platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Reddit, where they are shared, adapted, and modified by online communities.

Internet memes have become a major form of entertainment and social commentary, often reflecting current events or tapping into the shared emotions and feelings of their audience. Through the natural selection process, just like genes, they self-replicate, survive, and spread, becoming an integral part of many online conversations. Meme transmission occurs as people copy and share discrete units of cultural information with others, creating a sense of community among users.

Memes can be simple, like the iconic “Grumpy Cat” image or more complex, incorporating multiple layers of meaning and socially relevant themes. The study of memes, known as “memetics,” seeks to understand how they function and evolve in our digital age, akin to the way etymology explores the origins and history of words.

As technology continues to advance, memes will undoubtedly continue to influence our communication styles and methods of expression. They provide a unique window into the collective opinions, feelings, and experiences of the online community while offering a creative outlet for individuals to engage with current events and the world around them. From their humble beginnings as simple images or videos to their current importance as tools for communication and expression, memes have certainly taken hold in our ever-evolving digital landscape.

Meme Meaning Infographic


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the origin of the term meme?

The term “meme” was first coined by British biologist Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book, “The Selfish Gene.” He used the term to describe the way cultural information spreads and is replicated within a society, comparing it to the process of biological evolution.

Can you give an example of a popular meme?

One popular meme is “Distracted Boyfriend,” which features an image of a man looking at another woman, while his girlfriend looks on in disapproval. This meme is often used to humorously illustrate someone being attracted to a new idea, product, or situation over their current one.

What is the correct pronunciation of meme?

The word “meme” is pronounced like “meem” (rhymes with “team”).

How do memes spread across the internet?

Memes spread across the internet through various platforms such as social media, forums, and messaging apps. They are shared and reposted by users, with most memes having a humorous or relatable element that resonates with a wide audience.

What factors make a meme go viral?

Memes go viral due to a combination of factors, including:

  • General relatability and humor
  • Catchy captions or phrases
  • Unique and original concepts
  • Timeliness or relevance to current events
  • Shareability across various platforms

Are there different types of memes?

Yes, there are various types of memes, including:

  • Image macros: pictures with text overlays
  • Reaction images and GIFs: images or short animations that express a specific emotion or reaction
  • Satirical memes that mock or comment on various social issues
  • Remixes and mashups of popular memes or other internet content