The concept of an archetype /ˈɑːrkɪtaɪp/ appears in areas relating to behavior, historical psychological theory, and literary analysis. An archetype can be:
- a statement, pattern of behavior, a prototype, a "first" form or the main model which other statements, patterns of behavior, and objects copy, emulate or "merge" into. (Frequently used informal synonyms for this usage include "standard example", "basic example", and the longer form "archetypal example". Mathematical archetypes often appear as "canonical examples".)
a Platonic philosophical idea referring to pure forms which embody the fundamental characteristics of a thing in Platonism
- a collectively-inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., that is universally present, in individual psyches, as in Jungian psychology
- a constantly recurring symbol or motif in literature, painting, or mythology (this usage of the term draws from both comparative anthropology and from Jungian archetypal theory). In various seemingly unrelated cases in classic storytelling, media, etc., characters or ideas sharing similar traits recur.
Archetypes are also very close analogies to instincts in the sense that its impersonal and inherited traits that present and motivate human behavior long before any consciousness develops. They also continue to influence feelings and behavior even after some degree of consciousness developed later on.