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Meme vs. Gif: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Updated on October 11, 2023
A "Meme" is a cultural idea or behavior spread virally, often as an image with text, while a "Gif" is a file format for animated images without sound.

Key Differences

The term Meme originates from Richard Dawkins' 1976 book "The Selfish Gene." In it, he coined "meme" to describe an idea, behavior, or style that spreads within a culture. Today, in the digital age, Meme predominantly refers to viral internet images or videos that convey a particular idea, joke, or concept, often embellished with text. On the other hand, Gif is an acronym for Graphics Interchange Format, a bitmap image format introduced by CompuServe in 1987, primarily used for animated images.
Often, the lines between Meme and Gif can blur, especially when memes utilize GIFs as their medium. While a Meme conveys a culturally relevant message or joke, a Gif is purely about the format. Any image, whether static or animated, can serve as a meme, but only animated or short looped images in a specific format are termed as GIFs.
The versatility of the Meme is evident in its various forms. It might be a static image, a GIF, a video, or even just text. The core of a meme is its relatability and shareability. Gifs, conversely, are lauded for their ability to capture brief moments in motion, making them suitable for reactions, explanations, or just fun.
In essence, Memes and Gifs are both tools for communication in the digital realm. While the Meme offers a platform to convey ideas, sentiments, and humor, the Gif provides a format that captures the dynamism of motion, often encapsulating emotions more effectively than static images.

Comparison Chart


A cultural idea/behavior spread virally.
A file format for animated images without sound.


Term coined by Richard Dawkins in 1976.
Introduced by CompuServe in 1987.


Conveys culturally relevant messages or jokes.
Captures brief moments in motion.


Can be images, gifs, videos, or text.
Primarily animated or short looped images.

Key Characteristic

Content with shared cultural significance.
Motion captured in a loop without sound.

Meme and Gif Definitions


An idea, behavior, or style that spreads virally within a culture.
The 'distracted boyfriend' became a popular meme on the internet.


A bitmap image format for animated images.
She sent a gif of a dancing baby to lighten the mood.


An internet phenomenon often represented by images with captions.
The meme about cats and their love for boxes always makes me smile.


A moving image often used for reactions on the internet.
Whenever she's excited, she sends a gif of a jumping penguin.


A unit of cultural information spread by imitation.
The idea of 'paying it forward' has been a longstanding meme in society.


A graphic format suitable for simple animations.
For his presentation, he used a gif to demonstrate the process.


A viral internet content that reflects shared cultural experiences.
The meme about working from home during quarantine was relatable to many.


A digital file format that supports animation.
The website's banner was a gif showcasing their various products.


A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another.


A short looped video without sound.
He responded with a gif of applause after hearing the good news.


An image or short video clip, often accompanied by a humorous saying or popular catchphrase, that is transmitted virally, especially on social media.


A raster-based format for storing files of color graphics.


A humorous saying or popular catchphrase that is transmitted virally, especially as a caption for such an image or video clip.


An image or animated clip recorded in such a format.


(originally) Any unit of (originally cultural) information, such as a practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another in a comparable way to the transmission of genes.


Alternative case form of GIF


(Internet) Media, usually humorous, which is copied and circulated online with slight adaptations, such as basic pictures, video templates, etc.


Alternative case form of GIF


(Internet) A specific instance of a meme, such as an image macro or a video, often with humorous superimposed text.
This meme generator lets you make your own memes by adding a caption to existing images, or by uploading your own image.
I'm always posting memes on the groupchat.




Something not to be taken seriously; a joke.
It's a meme degree, you know. Good luck getting a job from that.
Jogging is a meme.


The Graphics Interchange Format, one of the most popular standardized formats for storing graphic data in binary computer files. The standard has been revised several times, and includes provisions for interlacing and animating images. Its disadvantage is that it can store only 256 colors. Compare JPEG.


Granny; nana


An image stored in GIF{1} format, or the file in which the image is stored; as, he sent three GIF's with lovely pictures of his children.


To create and use humorous memes.


To turn into a meme; to use a meme, especially to achieve a goal in real life.
To meme into existence


To joke around.


A cultural unit (an idea or value or pattern of behavior) that is passed from one generation to another by nongenetic means (as by imitation);
Memes are the cultrual counterpart of genes


A piece of media, often humorous, that spreads rapidly online.
She created a meme using a screenshot from her favorite movie.


Why are Memes popular on social media?

Memes are relatable, shareable, and reflect shared cultural experiences.

How do Gifs work?

Gifs display a series of images in a loop, creating an animation.

Who coined the term "Meme"?

Richard Dawkins coined the term "meme" in 1976.

What does Gif stand for?

Gif stands for Graphics Interchange Format.

Are Memes restricted to the internet?

No, memes exist as cultural ideas/behaviors, but they've become strongly associated with internet culture.

Can Gifs contain sound?

No, GIFs are soundless.

Is every Meme a Gif?

No, memes can be static images, texts, videos, or GIFs.

Can a Gif become a Meme?

Yes, if a GIF becomes culturally relevant and widely shared, it can be considered a meme.

Which programs can create Gifs?

Programs like Photoshop, Giphy, and online tools can be used to create GIFs.

Can a Meme have a long-term impact on culture?

Yes, some memes reflect or shape cultural sentiments and can have lasting significance.

Do Memes evolve over time?

Yes, as cultural contexts change, memes can be adapted or reinterpreted.

Can one make a Meme out of personal photos?

Yes, any image can be turned into a meme with culturally relevant content.

Why did Memes become an internet phenomenon?

Their relatability, humor, and ease of sharing contributed to their internet popularity.

Are all funny internet images Memes?

Not necessarily, but if widely shared with cultural relevance, they can be considered memes.

Can Gifs be interactive?

No, GIFs are animations but are not interactive.

Are Gifs limited to a certain number of frames?

No fixed limit, but longer GIFs can result in larger file sizes.

Are Gifs used in professional settings?

Occasionally, for presentations or digital marketing, but they're primarily informal.

What's the typical file size of a Gif?

It varies, but GIFs are typically smaller in size for faster loading.

In what file formats are Gifs saved?

GIFs are saved with the .gif file extension.

How do Memes spread?

Through sharing on social media, websites, and personal communication.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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