10 Most Popular Internet Memes (In History) (2022)

Who doesn't love a good meme? Funny memes are one of the things that the internet gave us, and while many make us roll our eyes and wonder if we're misusing one of the most innovative pieces of technology, many make us smile, and some make us smile and burst into laughter.

With so many popular memes out there, it can sometimes feel as though these simple yet brilliant forms of instant communication are being watered down. However, for every five thousand memes, only a few become a cultural phenomenon.

Unfortunately, identifying the most popular memes of all time is nearly impossible because there are few reliable statistics to measure how many times a particular meme has been viewed or shared online. As a result, we need to think about a meme's staying power and impact on society to come up with our list.

Fun Facts About Memes

Before going into our list of the ten most popular memes, we thought you would enjoy the following fun facts about it:

  • It's physically impossible to count the number of memes out on the internet. So many are already out there, and so many more are made each day that it would take you more than a lifetime to count those that currently exist, meaning you can never really know the true number. If that's too confusing, we'll simplify things: there are an infinite amount of memes on the internet.
  • The term "meme" was first used in Richard Dawkins' book, The Selfish Gene, to describe any "cultural artifact that spreads quickly and uncontrollably within and across cultures." He was one of the first to compare cultural phenomena to viral diseases, helping give birth to the idea of "going viral."
  • The word "meme" is now a more popular search term than Jesus.
  • Nearly 60 percent of all memes are political in nature.

What Are Memes?

For those who don't know what a meme is, first, welcome to the 21st century, and second, a meme today is defined as "an amusing or interesting item, such as a captioned picture or video, that is spread widely online usually through social media."

They come in many different formats, but many of them look like this:

10 Most Popular Internet Memes (In History) (1)

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Over the years, memes have become so popular that there are now different apps available to download that allow you to make your own in just a matter of seconds. This is another reason why it's so hard to count exactly how many memes are out there.

The Ten Most Popular Memes of All Time

Based on our limited capability of measuring the popularity of a meme, our list is not exact. That said, you will probably recognize each and every meme on this list, which helps to show how popular they are and how much impact they have on our culture.

Here's our list, in no particular order, of the ten most popular memes of all time:

Harambe

Harambe was a gorilla who lived in the Cincinnati zoo from around 2000 to 2016. However, his life ended abruptly when a three-year-old boy climbed into Harambe's cage, and the large primate grabbed him and began dragging him about. A zoo worker reacted quickly by shooting and killing the gorilla. This decision may have spared the boy's life, but it sparked a good deal of controversy.

Many people protested that the situation could have been handled without killing the animal, with some even claiming the gorilla was trying to protect and care for the boy. Supporters of the zookeeper dismiss this claim, hence the controversy.

(Video) 10 Most Popular Internet Memes | Funny Memes | History of Internet Memes

However, no matter on which side of the debate you fall, there's no denying that Harambe became very popular after his death. Images of the gorilla began popping up on the internet as a way for people to comment on the absurdity that is present in our modern lives.

Before long, Harambe became an internet sensation, and memes made about him are now some of the most popular and easily recognizable.

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Condescending Wonka

Willy Wonka, as played by the late Gene Wilder, first burst into the scene in 1971 with the release of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. However, his childlike love for chocolate, quirky personality, and strong moral sense helped him stay relevant for many more generations. The film has since been redone, starring Johnny Depp, but Wilder will forever be known as the original Willy Wonka.

However, Willy Wonka became even more relevant in 2011 when Redditors took a screengrab of him and began creating memes known as "Condescending Wonka." The screenshot in question was taken during a point in the film where Wonka was trying to incite wonder in the children visiting his factory by asking them, "Would you like to see it?" But his wide eyes and slight smile, frozen in time, sends a different message, and this gave birth to the sarcastic, often insulting humor that helped make Condescending Wonka such a popular internet meme.

Here are some examples of the most well-known version of this meme:

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LOLCats

It's tough to provide more explanation for the popularity of LOLCats, but they're hilarious. There's just something about a cute, cuddly cat photoshopped in a totally random scene complaining about something equally random that makes us all laugh. Maybe it's the idea we all share that cats really do have minds of their own, or perhaps it's the z-laden text used to describe feline thoughts, or maybe it's something we simply can't understand. In the end, it doesn't matter. They're just funny.

LOLCats became such a phenomenon that a whole LOLCats universe emerged shortly after these furry friends burst onto the scene. This universe consisted of several LOLCats characters who all play different roles in our lives. The two most recognizable characters are Ceiling Cat, who is supposedly watching you when you think you're alone, and Basement Cat, who became known as the devil of the LOLCats universe over time.

10 Most Popular Internet Memes (In History) (4)

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(Video) The history of the most popular memes (2004-2019)

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Squinting Fry

Although Futurama only ran for seven seasons between 1999-2003, reruns still air to this day, and the animated show has become a cult classic enjoyed by all different types of people. Its main character, Fry, is a dim-witted slacker from the 21st century who is cryogenically frozen and awoken 1,000 years in the future.

His diminished intellect and the confusing situations he often finds himself in means he is frequently confused or frustrated. A screengrab from the episode "The Lesser of Two Evils" captures this emotion perfectly. Since then, thousands of different captions have been added to the image to create memes that poke fun at some of the more humorous conundrums we face daily.

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Success Kid

Snagging a photo of a little kid when they're expressing true emotion makes a priceless picture, and in the case of Sammy Grimer, also known as "Success Kid" or "I hate sandcastles," a timely picture led to instant fame.

Because of the look on Grimer's face and the fact that he was a toddler when the photo was taken, most of the memes made using this picture were designed to celebrate smaller yet significant victories we experience daily, reminding us to smile more and not take life so seriously. Here are a few great examples:

10 Most Popular Internet Memes (In History) (7)

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Interestingly, the story of this meme goes a bit deeper. In 2016, Grimer's father needed a kidney transplant, and he was able to pay for it using the money made off this meme. So, in the end, all those free smiles and chuckles went towards helping save someone's life. What could be better than that?

The Most Interesting Man

What originally began as an advertising campaign for Dos Equis beer, "The Most Interesting Man in the World" meme took off rather quickly and became one of the most popular memes of all time. The star of the ad, Johnathon Goldsmith, depicts a cool and collected look like no one else. However, the internet took this disposition and juxtaposed it with some of the more menial aspects of life, allowing us once again to smile at ourselves and remember that life is often a joke.

(Video) MOST FAMOUS MEMES OF ALL THE TIME!!!

There are many different variations of this meme, but they all follow the same format of the ad, which said, "I don't always drink beer, but when I do, I drink Dos Equis."

10 Most Popular Internet Memes (In History) (9)

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Trump Signs an Executive Order

The current U.S. president's love for social media, particularly Twitter, and some of his less than convention speech mannerisms, have made him quite the target for meme-makers worldwide. Several have become quite famous, but perhaps one of the most popular to come out has been the meme of Trump showing off his first signed executive order.

People took to Photoshop to erase the actual text of the document and replace it with something 1000 times funnier, the most common image choice being, of course, cats.

In a time of political stress and turmoil, images like these are a nice way to remind ourselves that the world isn't going to end tomorrow, even if sometimes it feels that way. If you want to make your own Trump meme, check out the app DonaldDraws.

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Scumbag Steve

Although the guy who became known as Scumbag Steve is not named Steve, and we have no idea if he's really a scumbag or not, the picture of this guy standing in a doorway with a goofy look on his face and a baseball cap sideways on his head has become synonymous with all the behaviors we associate with a first-class jerk.

The man in the photo is Blake Boston, a rapper from Boston, Massachusetts. The photos used for the meme were actually taken by his mom, and the hat he is wearing was also a gift from his mother.

Boston acknowledges he did things as a kid that he isn't proud to have done, but he denies doing the things associated with him in the meme. This is one of the clear downsides of internet fame. No matter how hard Boston protests, he will always be "that guy" in the eyes of internet users around the world.

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(Video) Top 10 Internet Memes

Evil Kermit

Kermit the Frog is a cultural icon that has and will continue to stand the test of time. It should be no surprise that memes about him have become some of the most popular memes of all time.

However, memes about Kermit the Frog are not based on his warm, lovable personality. Instead, memes are made using a screenshot from Muppets Most Wanted in which Kermit must face his arch enemy, Constantine, who represents everything Kermit is not.

Memes using this image make fun of those moments in our lives when we must fight against the demons inside of us to do the things we must do, even when we desperately don't want to.

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10 Most Popular Internet Memes (In History) (13)

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Grumpy Cat

Another example of how the random facial expressions of cats can be turned into a way to convey human emotions Grumpy Cat is one of the most well-known and funniest memes of all time. As the name suggests, it features a chubby feline friend who looks extremely upset with what's happening around him. The internet has chosen to use this image in a wide range of ways, almost all of which will make any of us laugh. The most popular is to pretend the cat is a grumpy old feline who cares about nothing.

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The cat known as Grumpy Cat is named Tardar Sauce, and he has become such a sensation that one can now buy stuffed toys, t-shirts, books, and much more Grumpy Cat-related paraphernalia. There even exists a Grumpy Cat coffee drink for those who really can't get enough of this internet sensation. However, the company that made this drink tried to extend their line of drinks, and the "cat" sued them and won a case for $710,000. What a world?!

Unfortunately, however, Grumpy Cat is no longer with us. He passed in May of 2017, but his memes will live on forever!

Conclusion

The internet was created so that we could do so many things, but we must all be thankful for memes. These ten are some of the most popular memes of all time and have brought countless smiles to many people worldwide. There's no telling what's next in the world of funny memes, but we can be sure that the internet won't stop, meaning many more laughs will be had in the years to come.

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(Video) Top 10 most popular memes in the whole entire history!

FAQs

What was the first popular meme on the Internet? ›

Baby cha-cha-cha

Well, a computer-animated baby. Baby Cha-Cha-Cha, also known as Dancing Baby, was the first meme to go viral on the internet. The meme was created in 1996 to showcase the amazing abilities of the new CGI software by Kinetix Character Studio.

What is the history of the meme? ›

The term meme was introduced in 1976 by British evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins FRS FRSL (born 26 March 1941) is a British evolutionary biologist and author. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford and was Professor for Public Understanding of Science in the University of Oxford from 1995 to 2008.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Richard_Dawkins
. He conceived of memes as the cultural parallel to biological genes and considered them as being in control of their own reproduction.

Who made meme famous? ›

Origins and early memes. The word meme was coined by Richard Dawkins in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene as an attempt to explain how ideas replicate, mutate, and evolve (memetics). Emoticons are one of the first resemblances of internet memes.

What is meme example? ›

Meme Definition - What is a Meme - YouTube

When did memes start? ›

The dancing baby came out in 1996 and is considered by many to be the first digital meme. It took hours to download and was a bit creepy. The dancing baby made the jump to other forms of media by its famous appearance on the hit television series Ally MacBeal. Soon after, The Hamster Dance was born.

What was the first big meme? ›

"Mr. T Ate My B*lls" was the world's first image-based meme, launching in 1996 after becoming a running joke at the University of Illinois Urbana/Champaign, according to The Ball Report.

What is the longest living meme? ›

Pedobear Is Officially The Internet's Longest Lasting Meme.

Who made the word meme? ›

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins FRS FRSL (born 26 March 1941) is a British evolutionary biologist and author. He is an emeritus fellow of New College, Oxford and was Professor for Public Understanding of Science in the University of Oxford from 1995 to 2008.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Richard_Dawkins
coined the word "meme" in his 1976 bestseller The Selfish Gene.

What is a meme in social media? ›

A meme is an image or video that represents the thoughts and feelings of a specific audience. Most memes are captioned photos intended to elicit humor. However, there are many viral video memes too. Memes are a worldwide social phenomenon, and an increasingly important aspect of viral marketing and social engagement.

How do you say the word meme? ›

The correct way to say "meme", according to the Oxford English Dictionary and the BBC's Pronunciation Unit, is "meem" - not "may may" or "mee mee".

What is a GIF vs meme? ›

The main difference between an animated gif and a meme is that memes tend to be static images that make a topical or pop culture reference and animated gifs are, more simply, moving images. You can find all the animated gif memes that your heart desires at website such as Giphy and Awesome Gifs.

How do I create a meme? ›

How To Make A Meme | How To Create Your Own Meme - YouTube

What is the full meaning of memes? ›

1 : an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture. 2 : an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online especially through social media.

What is meme in French? ›

Noun. mémé f (plural mémés) (hypocoristic) grandma, granny, nana.

What makes a successful meme? ›

The main purpose of memes is to make viewers laugh. Overall, a meme is largely successful when it is simple, funny, and appeals to a large audience. Discerning these qualities in a meme is all up to the ingroup that the meme was created to appeal to.

How do you use meme in a sentence? ›

Meme sentence example

Someone probably saw this, copied the idea, and so began to spread the meme. I like to think he would be pleased with how his own great meme has evolved.

How do memes get popular? ›

We generally love sharing, understanding others, and being understood. This is what makes memes so likable. You can share them with a group, and everyone understands the intended message easily. The shareability of memes makes them popular in a cultural group or even globally because most people find them relatable.

What is a meme culture? ›

By Dawkins' definition, memes are cultural ideas that spread and repeat themselves across society. Add the Internet and an evolving sense of humour, and you have the Internet meme: a vessel of communication, a signifier of the comedic zeitgeist, and a device for channelling the inherent anxieties of youth.

What is the study of memes called? ›

Definition of memetics

memetics
Memetics is the study of information and culture based on an analogy with Darwinian evolution. Proponents describe memetics as an approach to evolutionary models of cultural information transfer. Memetics describes how an idea can propagate successfully, but doesn't necessarily imply a concept is factual.
https://en.wikipedia.org › wiki › Memetics


: the study of memes Memetics sees ideas as a kind of virus, sometimes propagating in spite of truth and logic.

Why are they called memes? ›

In French, the word “même” translates to “same” and the Greek word “mimoúmai” means “to imitate.” In his book, Dawkins said, “We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation.” He wanted to use a monosyllable that sounded like “gene.” Dawkins ...

Are Belong To Us meme? ›

All your base are belong to us is an Internet meme based on a badly translated phrase from the opening cutscene of the video game Zero Wing. The phrase first appeared on the European release of the 1991 Sega Mega Drive port of the 1989 Japanese arcade game.

Where do most memes originate? ›

Once a meme has been created, it is shared via social networks. Most memes are first circulated on Reddit, /pol/ or 4chan. From there, they find their way to other networks like Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook and WhatsApp.

What is the dank meme? ›

Dank meme refers to viral internet content that, due to overuse or passing trends, has lost its value or currency. It can also refer to exceptionally unique or odd memes.

Can I have Cheezburger cat? ›

ICHC was created on January 11, 2007, when Nakagawa posted an image from comedy website Something Awful of a smiling British Shorthair cat, known as Happycat, with a caption of the animal asking, "I can has cheezburger?" in a style popularised by 4chan. It is from this image that the site derives its name.

What is the use of meme coins? ›

It may be used in the broadest sense as a critique of the cryptocurrency market in its entirety—those based on particular memes such as "dog coins", celebrities like Coinye, and pump-and-dump schemes such as BitConnect—or it may be used to make cryptocurrency more accessible.

What was the first viral meme? ›

It all started more than 25 years ago. Before social media, even before the internet for some people, there was the dancing baby. The 3D-rendered, diaper-clad baby doing some version of the Cha Cha is widely known as the first viral video or meme.

What is a meme and how is it pronounced? ›

How to Pronounce Meme | American English Pronunciation - YouTube

Where did Roflcopter originate? ›

Where does roflcopter come from? Roflcopter blends the word helicopter and the internet acronym ROFL, or rolling on the floor laughing. The term was allegedly coined in 2003 by moderators on a World of Warcraft III forum in reference to a vehicle in that online game known as the gyrocopter.

What is the past tense of meme? ›

meme (third-person singular simple present memes, present participle meming or memeing, simple past and past participle memed)

What are meme stocks? ›

Meme stocks are company shares with large communities of online and social media followers. Online posts about these stocks can drive big peaks and crashes in their share prices. Meme stocks include GameStop, Bed, Bath & Beyond and cinema chain AMC.

Is meme a Scrabble word? ›

Yes, meme is a valid Scrabble word.

What's another word for meme? ›

What is another word for meme?
buzzwordtrend
voguerage
fancywhim
modemania
thinginfatuation
115 more rows

Is a meme a cartoon? ›

A cartoon broadly is what something a person draws (either by hand or using computer tools) to create humour/make fun/ridicule to satirise. The concerned person must have the ability to draw. A meme is broadly manipulating an already existing picture to create humour, fun, comment, ridicule, satirise.

Why do people make memes? ›

Memes let people ease the tension.

Political disagreements, social pressures, and major societal changes can be tackled in memes in a way that makes a point while still eliciting a laugh. People revel in memes that put into words the way they feel about things and that challenge them to think about issues in new ways.

What is a meme UK? ›

An internet meme is defined as an image, a video or a piece of text that is passed very quickly from one internet user to another, often with slight changes that make it humorous. The word comes from the Greek word for 'that which is imitated' about gene patterns in DNA.

What is memes in Japanese? ›

ミーム • (mīmu) meme (unit of cultural information) (uncommon) Internet meme.

Is meme short for anything? ›

Modelled on the form of the word gene, meme is a shortened form of Greek mimēma, meaning 'something imitated'.

How do you pronounce GIF? ›

It's pronounced JIF, not GIF.” Just like the peanut butter. “The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” Wilhite told The New York Times. “They are wrong. It is a soft 'G,' pronounced 'jif.

How do I make GIF? ›

Create a GIF With Android

Just tap Library, then Utilities and Create New. Choose Animation, select the photos and tap Create. The burstlike “motion photos” captured on some Google Pixel phones can be converted into animated GIFs right on the device or with a third-party app.

Does GIF stand for? ›

GIF is an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format, a file format that supports both static and animated images.

How do you edit a meme on iPhone? ›

How to Make Memes on iPhone! [Photo + GIF!] - YouTube

What is the meme font? ›

The meme font was unleashed in 1965, with a typeface called Impact. This is from the original Stephenson Blake ad for Impact. That meme typeface is called Impact (technically, a "font" is a specific version of a typeface, like when it's italicized or in bold).

How do you make a meme GIF? ›

How to Make a Meme Video (or GIF) - YouTube

What is memes in Instagram? ›

An Instagram meme is a piece of content – be it a moment in pop culture or a universally cute animal – used to convey a relatable sentiment with an audience. They can be static or dynamic, typically featuring a combination of text and imagery to visually get in on the conversation.

What do the letters in meme mean? ›

Definition. MEME. Multimedia & Electronic Music Experiments (Brown University)

What is meme partner? ›

Meme is a specialist consultancy, entirely focused on employee engagement. Our creative programs encourage team behaviours that improve the customer experience and ultimately the bottom line. @ MemePartners. Website http://www.meme-partners.com. Industries Business Consulting and Services.

What was the first viral meme? ›

It all started more than 25 years ago. Before social media, even before the internet for some people, there was the dancing baby. The 3D-rendered, diaper-clad baby doing some version of the Cha Cha is widely known as the first viral video or meme.

What is the dank meme? ›

Dank meme refers to viral internet content that, due to overuse or passing trends, has lost its value or currency. It can also refer to exceptionally unique or odd memes.

What is a meme vs GIF? ›

The main difference between an animated gif and a meme is that memes tend to be static images that make a topical or pop culture reference and animated gifs are, more simply, moving images. You can find all the animated gif memes that your heart desires at website such as Giphy and Awesome Gifs.

Why are they called memes? ›

In French, the word “même” translates to “same” and the Greek word “mimoúmai” means “to imitate.” In his book, Dawkins said, “We need a name for the new replicator, a noun that conveys the idea of a unit of cultural transmission, or a unit of imitation.” He wanted to use a monosyllable that sounded like “gene.” Dawkins ...

How do you say the word meme? ›

The correct way to say "meme", according to the Oxford English Dictionary and the BBC's Pronunciation Unit, is "meem" - not "may may" or "mee mee".

What is a meme culture? ›

By Dawkins' definition, memes are cultural ideas that spread and repeat themselves across society. Add the Internet and an evolving sense of humour, and you have the Internet meme: a vessel of communication, a signifier of the comedic zeitgeist, and a device for channelling the inherent anxieties of youth.

How do I create a meme? ›

How To Make A Meme | How To Create Your Own Meme - YouTube

What is a meme in social media? ›

A meme is an image or video that represents the thoughts and feelings of a specific audience. Most memes are captioned photos intended to elicit humor. However, there are many viral video memes too. Memes are a worldwide social phenomenon, and an increasingly important aspect of viral marketing and social engagement.

What is a meme video? ›

Meme – a piece of content that is copied and/or spread rapidly through the internet. Typically, it's a visual (image, video, GIF) with text on top of it.

Who created meme man? ›

He was popularized in the mid-2010s by the artist "Special meme fresh", and became a common character in many surreal memes, a genre of internet humor inspired by surrealism.

What is a meme account? ›

Meme accounts are some of the most popular on Instagram. People almost instinctively share funny images, GIFs, and short videos, especially when they include some pithy or culturally-relevant caption. Most influencers, recognizing this, include a range of meme posts amongst the posts they share.

Who created Dank Memer? ›

The bot was created by both Melmsie#0001 and aetheryx#0001, originally being maintained and managed only by a couple of volunteering staff members, and now having recruited more people in to help. You can find a more detailed list of the staff team by going to the official website here.

What is meme short form? ›

Modelled on the form of the word gene, meme is a shortened form of Greek mimēma, meaning 'something imitated'.

How do you pronounce GIF? ›

It's pronounced JIF, not GIF.” Just like the peanut butter. “The Oxford English Dictionary accepts both pronunciations,” Wilhite told The New York Times. “They are wrong. It is a soft 'G,' pronounced 'jif.

Does GIF stand for? ›

GIF is an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format, a file format that supports both static and animated images.

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