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See also: Labyrinth


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Borrowed from French labyrinthe or Latin labyrinthus, from Ancient Greek λᾰβύρῐνθος (labúrinthos, a maze).


  • IPA(key): /ˈlæb.ə.ɹɪnθ/, /ˈlæb.ɹɪnθ/
  • (file)


labyrinth (plural labyrinths)

  1. (Greek mythology) A maze-like structure built by Daedalus in Knossos, containing the Minotaur.
    1. A complicated irregular network of passages or paths, especially underground or covered, in which it is difficult to find one's way.
      • 1837, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], Ethel Churchill: Or, The Two Brides. [], volume III, London: Henry Colburn, [], →OCLC, pages 264–265:
        Mrs. Churchill liked the interminable labyrinths of the Cyrus and the Cassandra, because she had liked them in the days of her girlhood. Youth identifies itself with the romance; it is the heroic knight, or the lovely lady, of which it reads; it lives amid those fine creations; its sweetest hours are given to dreams which soon "Fade into the light of common day."
      Synonym: maze
    2. (horticulture) A maze formed by paths separated by high hedges.
    3. (by extension) Anything complicated and confusing in structure, arrangement, or character.
      • 2014 August 23, Neil Hegarty, “Hidden City: Adventures and Explorations in Dublin by Karl Whitney, review: 'a necessary corrective' [print version: Re-Joycing in Dublin, p. R25]”, in The Daily Telegraph (Review)[1]:
        Whitney is absorbed especially by Dublin's unglamorous interstitial zones: the new housing estates and labyrinths of roads, watercourses and railways where the city peters into its commuter belt.
  2. (anatomy) A tortuous anatomical structure:
    1. (anatomy) A complex structure in the inner ear which contains the organs of hearing and balance. It consists of bony cavities (the bony labyrinth) filled with fluid and lined with sensitive membranes (the membranous labyrinth).
    2. (zoology) An accessory respiratory organ of certain fish.
  3. Any of various satyrine butterflies of the genus Neope.

Derived terms[edit]



labyrinth (third-person singular simple present labyrinths, present participle labyrinthing, simple past and past participle labyrinthed)

  1. to enclose in a labyrinth, or as though in a labyrinth
  2. to arrange in the form of a labyrinth
    • 1898, Missionary Review of the World - Volume 21, page 178:
      It is said to have been labyrinthed by secret exits and cunning contrivances to facilitate the escape of fugitives from the law.
    • 1963, Water & Sewage Works - Volume 110, page 43:
      By labyrinthing, close axial running clearances can be increased without reducing efficiency.
    • 1998, Peter E. Stott, Giuseppe Gorini, Paolo Prandoni, Diagnostics for Experimental Thermonuclear Fusion Reactors:
      In the ports the transmission path is often labyrinthed through shielding but the peculiar requirement of straight beams has been considered.
    • 2011, Peter Capper, James Garland, Mercury Cadmium Telluride: Growth, Properties and Applications:
      The element illustrated has been 'labyrinthed' to improve its performance.
  3. to twist and wind, following a labyrinthine path
    • 1917, Harry Alverson Franck, Vagabonding Down the Andes, page 313:
      We labyrinthed through it, meeting scores of panty-clad and moccasined Indians and barefoot women and girls toiling marketward under atrocious burdens; for the day was Sunday.
    • 2000, James Cook, Counter-Clockwise, page 90:
      Hands clasped together, Linda and Ron walked through the huge doorway leading to the hall that would labyrinth it's way to the parking lot.
    • 2017, Mahvesh Murad, Jared Shurin, Neil Gaiman, The Djinn Falls in Love and Other Stories:
      I'm far from home, labyrinthing through unfamiliar alleys, before I find the right house.
  4. to render lost and confused, as if in a labyrinth
    • 1886, Pliny A. Durant, History of Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, page 52:
      They arrive at their different destinations long before day, and make their attack about day-break, and seldom fail to kill or make prisoners of the whole family, as the people know nothing of the matter until they are thus labyrinthed.
    • 1951, New Mexico Quarterly - Volumes 21-22:
      He favored, he said, "a kind of half-sleep where I labyrinthed myself."
    • 1995, Patrick Waddington, Theirs but to do and die, page 148:
      Above all, he flatters the men by emphasising their numerical victory: a British regiment may have turned into a troop, but it left behind it 'labyrinthed legions' of dead Russians.