- a statement, pattern of behavior, or prototype which other statements, patterns of behavior, and objects copy or emulate;
- a Platonic philosophical idea referring to pure forms which embody the fundamental characteristics of a thing;
- a collectively-inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., that is universally present in individual psyches, as in Jungian psychology;
- or a constantly recurring symbol or motif in literature, painting, or mythology (this usage of the term draws from both comparative anthropology and Jungian archetypal theory).
In the first sense, many more informal terms are frequently used instead, such as "standard example" or "basic example", and the longer form "archetypal example" is also found. In mathematics, an archetype is often called a "canonical example".
The word archetype first entered into English usage in the 1540s and derives from the Latin noun archetypum, which the latinisation of the Greek noun ἀρχέτυπον archetupon, whose adjective form is ἀρχέτυπος archetupos and which means "first-molded," which is a compound of ἀρχή archē, "beginning, origin" and τύπος tupos, which can mean, amongst other things, "pattern," "model," or "type." The word 'pattern' comes from the Greek root 'pater-', meaning 'father'. So archetype can be understood as the principle pattern, from which others are copied from.
The origins of the archetypal hypothesis date back as far as Plato. In the seventeenth century, Sir Thomas Browne and Francis Bacon both employ the word 'archetype' in their writings. Browne employed it in The Garden of Cyrus in some attempts to depict archetypes in his citing of symbolic proper-names. Plato's ideas were pure mental forms that were imprinted in the soul before it was born into the world. They were collective in the sense that they embodied the fundamental characteristics of a thing rather than its specific peculiarities.
The concept of psychological archetypes was advanced by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, c. 1919. In Jung's psychological framework, archetypes are innate, universal prototypes for ideas and may be used to interpret observations. A group of memories and interpretations associated with an archetype is a complex ( e.g. a mother complex associated with the mother archetype). Jung treated the archetypes as psychological organs, analogous to physical ones in that both are morphological constructs that arose through evolution.
Jung states in part one of Man And His Symbols that:
My views about the 'archaic remnants', which I call 'archetypes' or 'primordial images,' have been constantly criticized by people who lack a sufficient knowledge of the psychology of dreams and of mythology. The term 'archetype' is often misunderstood as meaning certain definite mythological images or motifs, but these are nothing more than conscious representations. Such variable representations cannot be inherited. The archetype is a tendency to form such representations of a motif—representations that can vary a great deal in detail without losing their basic pattern.
Archetypal literary criticism
Archetypal literary criticism argues that archetypes determine the form and function of literary works and that a text's meaning is shaped by cultural and psychological myths. Archetypes are the unknowable basic forms personified or made concrete by recurring images, symbols, or patterns (which may include motifs such as the 'quest' or the 'heavenly ascent;' recognizable character types such as the 'trickster' or the 'hero;' symbols such as the apple or snake; and imagery) and that have all been laden with meaning prior to their inclusion in any particular work.
- Douglas Harper. "Online Etymology Dictionary - Archetype".
- ἀρχέτυπος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- ἀρχή, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- τύπος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
- "derivative of pater father. See pattern"
- Archetype, definition 1
- Boeree, C. George. "Carl Jung". Archived from the original on 6 February 2006. Retrieved 2006-03-09.
- The dictionary definition of archetype at Wiktionary