The Meaning of Meme: What It Is and How To Use It

What is a meme? How do memes spread through a society? This article will teach you all about the meaning of meme and how to spot popular memes.

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Today we will explore a fascinating internet sensation: the meme. While memes may seem like they are a relatively recent impression, in this article, you will learn about the actual origin of the term meme. We will also provide several examples of memes for you to explore.  

What Does Meme Mean?

According to Dictionary, a meme is a unit of cultural information. Memes are often transmitted over the internet by means of repetition and replication, similar to the biological transmission of genes.

 Most often, people use the word meme to refer to an internet meme, which is something that internet users share on social media. Usually, an internet meme is a photo with a caption that can change from post to post, all centering around the same joke format. Other times, a meme is an action that someone performs and takes a video of. 

The study of memes is called memetics, and the pronunciation of the word meme is miːm. Memetics studies how the transmission of memes mirrors the transmission of genes. This cultural evolution mirrors the biological evolution that we see in the world. 

What Is the Origin of Meme?

According to Brittanica, the word meme first appeared in 1976 in the book The Selfish Gene by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Dawkins called memes a form of the selfish gene in contrast to a biological gene. He claims that a meme spreads like a gene, is in control of its own reproduction, and can evolve or mutate. Memes also undergo natural selection.

Dawkins originally coined the term as “mimeme.” He wanted the word to look and sound like the word gene and based this initial term on the Greek mī́mēma meaning imitation or copy. 

What Are Examples of Memes?

Hundreds of memes sweep the internet every year, but what are some of the original memes, and which are some of the most popular memes? Keep reading to learn more about some classic memes and ones that took the internet by storm. 

Kilroy Was Here

One of the first-ever memes was a drawing of a man with a long nose looking over a wall. This meme did not start on the internet but rather on walls and buildings around the world during World War II. This meme represented the spirit of WWII American soldiers and has remained famous ever since. No one knows the real origin of Kilroy.

Pepe the Frog

Unfortunately, not all memes meet a good end. The Pepe the frog meme was once a silly series of images about a frog. However, it has since transformed into a symbol of white supremacy. 

This was not the artist’s original intention, but unfortunately, the correlation has gotten so bad that Pepe the frog is listed as a hate symbol by the Anti-Defamation League. Avoid using any Pepe the frog symbols due to this association.

This Is Fine

One of the most popular memes when the world seems to be crashing down around them is the “This Is Fine” meme. This meme features a dog in a little hat sitting at a table drinking coffee while the room is engulfed in flames around him. This relatable image has been a popular meme choice for nearly ten years.

What Are Translations of Meme?

While you might struggle to understand memes in other languages, if you have friends on the internet that speak a different language than you do, it can be useful to learn translations of the word meme to expand your knowledge beyond the American English language. Take a look at the below translations of this word of the day from Nice Translator.

  • Urdu: meme
  • Amharic: mem
  • Hebrew: אני אני
  • Kannada: ಅಣಕ
  • Romanian: eu eu
  • German: Meme
  • Estonian: meem
  • Chinese (PRC): 模因
  • Portuguese (Brazil): meme
  • Telugu: పోటి
  • Turkish: meme
  • Welsh: meme
  • Vietnamese: ảnh chế
  • Swedish: jag Jag
  • Korean: 나 나
  • Chinese (Taiwan): 模因
  • Czech: Meme
  • Danish: Meme
  • Thai: มส์
  • Icelandic: meme
  • Ukrainian: мем
  • Italian: meme
  • Serbian: Мима
  • Marathi: मेम
  • Slovenian: meme
  • Hindi: मेम
  • Finnish: meme
  • Portuguese (Portugal): meme
  • Gujarati: છત્ર
  • Spanish: meme
  • Bengali: মেম
  • Tamil: நினைவு
  • Norwegian: meme
  • Latvian: mēms
  • Croatian: posrednik
  • Basque: konturatu
  • Japanese: ミーム
  • Russian: мем
  • Arabic: انا انا
  • French: mème
  • Hungarian: én én
  • Polish: ja ja
  • Slovak: meme
  • Greek: μνήμη
  • Bulgarian: мем
  • Dutch: meme
  • Catalan: meme
  • Malayalam: മെയ്

What Are Synonyms of Meme?

Knowing different ways to refer to a meme can be very useful if you are trying to explain what a meme is. If someone is unfamiliar with the concept of memes, you can use one of these synonyms of meme from Power Thesaurus to explain it. 

Knowing synonyms of words like meme can also come in handy if you feel you have overused the term meme. Using synonyms for words can keep your writing exciting and engaging rather than repetitive and boring. 

  • amusing item
  • buzzword
  • captioned image
  • captioned picture
  • captioned video
  • catch-phrase
  • comical picture
  • concept
  • craze
  • discrete units of gossip
  • discrete units of jokes
  • discrete units of knowledge
  • fad
  • fashion
  • funny joke
  • genre of items
  • idea
  • interesting item
  • internet meme
  • joke
  • online joke
  • parody
  • trend


A meme is a unit of cultural information that is spread via repetition and transformation. Often, when a person refers to a meme, they are talking about a photo with a caption that can change between posts that follows the same joke format or structure. 


  1. Meme synonyms – 43 Words and Phrases for Meme | Power Thesaurus 
  2. meme | Definition, Meaning, History, & Facts | Britannica
  3. Meme Definition & Meaning |  
  4. Meme | Nice Translator