What does it mean when something is meta?


Meta is when something, often a piece of art, refers back to itself. For example, a TV show about producing a TV show is meta.

The term comes from the Greek meaning of meta, which is "beyond" or "after." It's often attached to words to give them new meaning, like "metaphysics" and "metadata," but in the 2010s, the usage of the word evolved in pop culture to describe works of art, such as movies or books, that displayed an acute self-awareness of their medium.

Some examples of popular meta TV shows

  • Seinfeld - A show about a fictionalized version of comedian Jerry Seinfeld who is, in fact, a comedian
  • Community - A show about a community college students that subtly and not-so-subtly refers to other pop culture
  • 30 Rock - A show about the production of a live comedy show written by Tina Fey, who previously starred and wrote on, you guessed it, a live comedy show
  • The Simpsons - A cartoon that references everything from tv shows, movies, cartoons, even Edgar Allan Poe poems
  • Family Guy - Another cartoon that practically lambasts everything pop culture, and includes characters that look at the camera

While people mainly use it to describe works in pop culture, others may use it whenever anything comes full circle in a mind-blowing way. For example, you might think it's meta when you find out your grandmother held the same job in the same city you work in now.


That show was so meta.
Yeah, it blew my mind when they had a whole show based on David Fincher's movies.

Whoa, so meta

Related Slang


Updated January 4, 2022

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This page explains what the slang term "Meta" means. The definition, example, and related terms listed above have been written and compiled by the team.

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