What is meme? - Definition from WhatIs.com
Part of the Computing fundamentals glossary:

A meme is an idea that is passed on from one human generation to another. It's the cultural equivalent of a gene, the basic element of biological inheritance. The term was coined in 1976 by Richard Dawkins in his book The Selfish Gene. Dawkins speculated that human beings have an adaptive mechanism that other species don't have. In addition to genetic inheritance with its possibilities and limitations, humans, said Dawkins, can pass their ideas from one generation to the next, allowing them to surmount challenges more flexibly and more quickly than through the longer process of genetic adaptation and selection.

Examples of memes might include the idea of God; the importance of the individual as opposed to group importance; the belief that the environment can to some extent be controlled; or that technologies can create an electronically interconnected world community.

Today, the word is sometimes used to describe ideas deemed to be of passing value. Dawkins himself described such short-lived ideas as memes that would have a short life in the meme pool. Meme is an abbreviated form of the Greek word "mimeme," which means "something imitated."

This was last updated in May 2008
Posted by: Margaret Rouse

Related Terms


  • Turing test

    - In artificial intelligence (AI), the Turing Test is a method for determining whether or not a computer is capable of thinking like a human. (WhatIs.com)

  • telepresence

    - Telepresence is a sophisticated form of robotic remote control in which a human operator has a sense of being in a remote location so that the experience resembles virtual reality (VR). (WhatIs.com)

  • gravity wave (or gravitational wave)

    - A gravity wave (or gravitational wave) is a ripple in the curvature of the space-time continuum (the enmeshed combination of our three perceived physical dimensions, plus time) created by the movem... (WhatIs.com)


  • Computing fundamentals

    - Terms related to computer fundamentals, including computer hardware definitions and words and phrases about software, operating systems, peripherals and troubleshooting.

  • Internet applications

    - This WhatIs.com glossary contains terms related to Internet applications, including definitions about Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery models and words and phrases about web sites, e-commerce ...

Ask a Question. Find an Answer.Powered by ITKnowledgeExchange.com

Ask An IT Question

Get answers from your peers on your most technical challenges

Ask Question

Tech TalkComment



    Contribute to the conversation

    All fields are required. Comments will appear at the bottom of the article.