Archetype is defined as the original model of which all other similar persons, objects, or concepts are merely derivative, copied, patterned, or emulated. The term is often used in literature, architecture, and the arts to refer to something that goes back to the fundamental origins of style, method, gold standard, or physical construct. Shakespeare, for example, is epitomized for popularizing many archetypal characters, not because he was the first that we know of to write them, but because he defined those roles amongst the backdrop of a complex, social literary landscape. Thus, the characters stand out as original by contrast, even though many of his characters were based on previously-garnered archetypes (Shakespeare often borrowed from fables, myths and magic to construct and embellish his plays).

The imitation process of an archetype or prototype itself is called a pastiche (noun), in which one who mimics pays homage to the original creator.

Archetypes in cultural analysis:
As with other psychologies which have infiltrated mass thought, archetypes are now incorporated into discourses on cultural analysis. Archetypes in this sense include:

  • The Girl Hero
  • Water (the unconscious mind)

Enneagram character archetypes:
Archetypes can be understood through character via the Enneagram. This emerging view is gaining popularity in the psychological community, and can help people define archetypes in their interactions with others.

Read more about Jungian Archetypes.