What is the meaning of the term mytheme?

When did the term first come into use, and what are some examples of mythemes?

  • 2
    Hi, Baldr, welcome to Mythology and Folklore. Did you check Wikipedia, and if so, what still confuses you?
    – HDE 226868
    Commented Feb 11, 2018 at 3:16
  • 1
    @HDE226868 possibly they're looking for an explanation in layman's language. (I'm thinking of my first brush with Time Complexity as a non-mathematician.) The wiki is clear, but assumes general grounding in linguistics.
    – DukeZhou
    Commented Feb 14, 2018 at 22:55

1 Answer 1


Oxford dictionaries provides us with the following definition:

In structuralist anthropology and literary criticism:

each of a set of fundamental generic units of narrative structure (typically involving a relationship between a character, an event, and a theme) from which myths are thought to be constructed.

It is, in effect, a common ground between different mythological stories.

Vampires and Selkies for example might be based on a mytheme of shapeshifting.

Hades and Nirvana may have the mytheme of the afterlife.

I hope this answers your question.

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