an intricate combination of paths or passages in which it is difficult to find one’s way or to reach the exit.
Synonyms: maze, network, web.
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.
a complicated or tortuous arrangement, as of streets or buildings.
Synonyms: warren, maze, jungle, snarl, tangle, knot.
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.
Synonyms: wilderness, jungle, forest; morass.
(initial capital letter) Classical Mythology. a vast maze built in Crete by Daedalus, at the command of King Minos, to house the Minotaur.

the internal ear, consisting of a bony portion (bony labyrinth) and a membranous portion (membranous labyrinth)
the aggregate of air chambers in the ethmoid bone, between the eye and the upper part of the nose.

a mazelike pattern inlaid in the pavement of a church.
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.
Contemporary Examples

In The labyrinth of Solitude, Octavio Paz called her “the shield of the weak, the help of the oppressed.”
The Virgin Mary Becomes Pop Symbol Judith Dupre December 10, 2010

This is wishful thinking: a plunge into the labyrinth with no thread to lead them back out.
After the Queen’s Jubilee, a Sobering Summer Christopher Dickey June 7, 2012

What Pan’s labyrinth lacks in sex, it makes up for in skin-crawling creepiness.
12 Sexed-Up Fairy Tales Alex Berg March 7, 2011

Like the Minotaur in his labyrinth, you set up a maze others must work through to get to the true you.
Horoscopes: May 29-June 4, 2011 Starsky + Cox May 27, 2011

As Margalit Fox says at the outset of The Riddle of the labyrinth, the story of Linear B is well known.
Who Actually Cracked Linear B, the Ancient Code of the Mysterious Knossos Labyrinth? Malcolm Jones May 16, 2013

Historical Examples

Strangers, however good otherwise, would be lost in that labyrinth of uncharted and unlighted islands.
Draft of a Plan for Beginning Animal Sanctuaries in Labrador William Wood

I wished I had never entered the labyrinth which was leading me, I knew not whither.
The Room in the Dragon Volant J. Sheridan LeFanu

It is impossible to render justice to the labyrinth in a few pages, and no book lends itself less to quotation.
A History of Bohemian Literature Count Ltzow

To the southeast of it was a section known as the labyrinth.
The Story of the Great War, Volume III (of VIII) Various

These run from a little to the north-west of Breaksea Spit to those of the labyrinth.
The Life of Captain Matthew Flinders Ernest Scott

a mazelike network of tunnels, chambers, or paths, either natural or man-made Compare maze (sense 1)
any complex or confusing system of streets, passages, etc
a complex or intricate situation

any system of interconnecting cavities, esp those comprising the internal ear
another name for internal ear

(electronics) an enclosure behind a high-performance loudspeaker, consisting of a series of air chambers designed to absorb unwanted sound waves
(Greek myth) a huge maze constructed for King Minos in Crete by Daedalus to contain the Minotaur

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).

labyrinth lab·y·rinth (lāb’ə-rĭnth’)

A group of complex interconnecting anatomical cavities.

See inner ear.

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.

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.

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