An archetype is an original model on which something is patterned or based. The term is often used in literature, architecture and the arts to refer to something that goes back to the fundamentals of the art. Shakespeare, for example, is held up as containing many archetypal roles because he was the first that we know of to write them.

Jungian Archetypes

The archetype is also a concept of psychologist Carl Gustav Jung. In this context, archetypes are innate prototypes for ideas, which may subsequently become involved in the interpretation of observed phenonena. A group of memories and interpretations closely associated with an archetype is called a complex, and may be named for its central archetype (e. g. "mother complex"). Jung often seemed to view the archetypes as sort of psychological organs, directly analogous to our physical, bodily organs: both being morphological givens for the species; both arising at least partially through evolutionary processes. There are four famous forms of archetypes numbered by Jung:

The symbols of the unconscious abound in Jungian psychology:

"Archetype" is sometimes broadly and misleadingly used as a substitute for such other words as prototype, stereotype, and epitome. This illustrates the Jungian concept of a complex. Since certain groups of word meanings are closely connected to each other in the mind, to the point of being nearly inseparable, some of those meanings may migrate from the most apt words to other related words.

See also: stereotype