[ ahr-ki-tahyp ]
/ ˈɑr kɪˌtaɪp /
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See synonyms for: archetype / archetypal / archetypical / archetypic on Thesaurus.com

the original pattern or model from which all things of the same kind are copied or on which they are based; a model or first form; prototype.
(in Jungian psychology) a collectively inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., universally present in individual psyches.
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Origin of archetype

1595–1605; <Latin archetypum an original <Greek archétypon a model, pattern (neuter of archétypos of the first mold, equivalent to arche-arche- + týp(os) mold, type + -os adj. suffix)


ar·che·typ·al, ar·che·typ·i·cal [ahr-ki-tip-i-kuhl], /ˌɑr kɪˈtɪp ɪ kəl/, ar·che·typ·ic, adjectivear·che·typ·al·ly, ar·che·typ·i·cal·ly, adverb


archetype , prototype
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2022


What does archetype mean?

An archetype is an original model that other things of the same kind will copy or be based on, as in The company’s 2007 product would be the archetype that all its later models would be based on.

The word archetype is also used in Jungian psychology to refer to unconscious thoughts or symbols that seem to be universal, as in Loki and Pan are two of the Trickster archetype that appear in ancient mythology.

An archetype as an original model is very similar to a prototype, which also refers to an original design or model. However, an archetype is sometimes used to specifically mean that something is considered to be the best, something that all similar things should strive to be. A prototype, on the other hand, may be unfinished or flawed. Things that are based on the prototype as an example may be quite different from it in the end.

In psychology, archetype is specifically from the theories of psychiatrist Carl Jung. Jung theorized that all humans unconsciously share certain thoughts or images that are expressed in fairy tales and mythology. For example, many cultures have similar ideas of what a hero is even though they never shared the idea with each other. That similar idea is called an archetype, and the hero in a story would be a specific archetype.

Based on Jung’s usage, archetype is often used similarly to the word trope or stereotype to refer to a recurring theme or an element that constantly reappears in art, as in The character was a classic example of the grizzled veteran cop archetype.

The adjective form of archetype is both archetypal and archetypical, as in In this story, the wise old man is an archetypal messiah figure.

Example: The award-winning film would become the archetype for the genre that many following films would try to duplicate.

Where does archetype come from?

The first records of archetype come from around 1595. It comes from the Greek archétýpos, meaning “first mold.” An archetype is something that will be used as a guide or reference point when similar things are created.

If you have ever taken an English or psychology class, your teacher likely mentioned Carl Jung and his archetypes at some point. Many old myths and tales appear to contain examples of Jung’s archetypes. Because these old stories continue to inspire new creative works today, these archetypes can still be seen in many of our favorite stories. For example, Star Wars’ Han Solo is a good example of the anti-hero or outlaw archetype, who is someone capable of being a hero but doesn’t have the drive for it.

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What are some other forms related to archetype?

  • archetypal (adjective)
  • archetypical (adjective)
  • archetypally (adverb)
  • archetypically (adverb)

What are some synonyms for archetype?

What are some words that share a root or word element with archetype

What are some words that often get used in discussing archetype?

What are some words archetype may be commonly confused with?

How is archetype used in real life?

Archetype is a common, complex word. It is often used to refer to recurring themes or character models, because Carl Jung’s theory of archetypes is often taught in school.

Try using archetype!

Is archetype used correctly in the following sentence?

The old musician’s work is the archetype that many younger performers try to emulate.

How to use archetype in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for archetype

/ (ˈɑːkɪˌtaɪp) /

a perfect or typical specimen
an original model or pattern; prototype
psychoanal one of the inherited mental images postulated by Jung as the content of the collective unconscious
a constantly recurring symbol or motif in literature, painting, etc

Word Origin for archetype

C17: from Latin archetypum an original, from Greek arkhetupon, from arkhetupos first-moulded; see arch-, type
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012

Medical definitions for archetype

[ ärkĭ-tīp′ ]

An original model or type after which other similar things are patterned.
In Jungian psychology, an inherited pattern of thought or symbolic image that is derived from the past collective experience of humanity and is present in the unconscious of the individual.imago

Other words from archetype

ar′che•typal (-tīpəl) null null adj.ar′che•typi•cal•ly adv.
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

Cultural definitions for archetype

[ (ahr-ki-teyep) ]

An original model after which other similar things are patterned. In the psychology of Carl Jung, archetypes are the images, patterns, and symbols (see also symbol) that rise out of the collective unconscious and appear in dreams, mythology, and fairy tales.

The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.