From Hull AWE
- â€˜A cultural element or behavioural trait whose transmission and consequent persistence in a population, although occurring by non-genetic means (esp. imitation), is considered as analogous to the inheritance of a gene.â€™
Its derivation and meaning are even clearer in this quotation from its inventor:
- â€˜The new soup is the soup of human culture. We need a name for the new replicator, a noun which conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation. â€˜Mimemeâ€™ comes from a suitable Greek root, but I want a monosyllable that sounds a bit like â€˜geneâ€™. I hope my classicist friends will forgive me if I abbreviate mimeme to meme... It should be pronounced to rhyme with â€˜creamâ€™. Examples of memes are tunes, ideas, catch-phrases, clothes fashions, ways of making pots or of building arches.â€™ R. Dawkins (1976) The Selfish Gene xi. 206, cited in OED.