labyrinth

[lab-uh-rinth]
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noun
  1. an intricate combination of paths or passages in which it is difficult to find one's way or to reach the exit.
  2. a maze of paths bordered by high hedges, as in a park or garden, for the amusement of those who search for a way out.
  3. a complicated or tortuous arrangement, as of streets or buildings.
  4. any confusingly intricate state of things or events; a bewildering complex: His papers were lost in an hellish bureaucratic labyrinth. After the death of her daughter, she wandered in a labyrinth of sorrow for what seemed like a decade.
  5. (initial capital letter) Classical Mythology. a vast maze built in Crete by Daedalus, at the command of King Minos, to house the Minotaur.
  6. Anatomy.
    1. the internal ear, consisting of a bony portion (bony labyrinth) and a membranous portion (membranous labyrinth).
    2. the aggregate of air chambers in the ethmoid bone, between the eye and the upper part of the nose.
  7. a mazelike pattern inlaid in the pavement of a church.
  8. Also called acoustic labyrinth, acoustical labyrinth. Audio. a loudspeaker enclosure with air chambers at the rear for absorbing sound waves radiating in one direction so as to prevent their interference with waves radiated in another direction.

Origin of labyrinth

1540–50; < Latin labyrinthus < Greek labýrinthos; replacing earlier laborynt < Medieval Latin laborintus, Latin, as above
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018


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British Dictionary definitions for labyrinth

labyrinth

noun
  1. a mazelike network of tunnels, chambers, or paths, either natural or man-madeCompare maze (def. 1)
  2. any complex or confusing system of streets, passages, etc
  3. a complex or intricate situation
    1. any system of interconnecting cavities, esp those comprising the internal ear
    2. another name for internal ear
  4. electronics an enclosure behind a high-performance loudspeaker, consisting of a series of air chambers designed to absorb unwanted sound waves

Word Origin for labyrinth

C16: via Latin from Greek laburinthos, of obscure origin

Labyrinth

noun
  1. Greek myth a huge maze constructed for King Minos in Crete by Daedalus to contain the Minotaur
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

Word Origin and History for labyrinth
n.

c.1400, laberynthe (late 14c. in Latinate form laborintus) "labyrinth, maze," figuratively "bewildering arguments," from Latin labyrinthus, from Greek labyrinthos "maze, large building with intricate passages," especially the structure built by Daedelus to hold the Minotaur near Knossos in Crete, from a pre-Greek language; perhaps related to Lydian labrys "double-edged axe," symbol of royal power, which fits with the theory that the labyrinth was originally the royal Minoan palace on Crete and meant "palace of the double-axe." Used in English for "maze" early 15c., and in figurative sense of "confusing state of affairs" (1540s).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

labyrinth in Medicine

labyrinth

[lăbə-rĭnth′]
n.
  1. A group of complex interconnecting anatomical cavities.
  2. inner ear
The American Heritage® Stedman's Medical Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.

labyrinth in Science

labyrinth

[lăbə-rĭnth′]
  1. The system of interconnecting canals and spaces that make up the inner ear of many vertebrates. The labyrinth has both a bony component, made up of the cochlea, the semicircular canals, and the vestibule, and a membranous one.
The American Heritage® Science Dictionary Copyright © 2011. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

labyrinth in Culture

Labyrinth

In classical mythology, a vast maze on the island of Crete. The great inventor Daedalus designed it, and the king of Crete kept the Minotaur in it. Very few people ever escaped from the Labyrinth. One was Theseus, the killer of the Minotaur.

Note

A labyrinth can be literally a maze or figuratively any highly intricate construction or problem.
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.