Definition of deme in US English:



  • 1A political division of Attica in ancient Greece.

    • ‘Life Xenophon, son of Gryllus, from the Athenian deme (rural district) of Erchia, was born into a wealthy but politically inactive family around 430 BC.’
    • ‘So in the summer of 431, a Spartan army invaded Attica, laying waste to Acharnai, a rural deme to the north-west of Athens, within sight of the city walls.’
    • ‘The Peloponnesian army under King Archidamus reached the borders of Attica and encamped at the deme of Acharnae.’
    • ‘Two portraits of Socrates frame the Symposium, one painted by Aristodemus, the good thief, the best of the deme, the other by Alcibiades, the bad thief.’
    1. 1.1 An administrative division in modern Greece.
  • 2Biology
    A subdivision of a population consisting of closely related plants, animals, or people, typically breeding mainly within the group.

    • ‘We have studied different aspects of DNA sequence polymorphism within a single deme drawn from a population that has experienced a range expansion.’
    • ‘The effect of genetic hitchhiking on neutral variation is analyzed in subdivided populations with differentiated demes.’
    • ‘In particular, if a sample is taken from such a population, levels of polymorphism within and between demes will be the same.’
    • ‘Historically, migration can take ancestors to any deme within the population.’
    • ‘However, much of the theoretical work since has focused on populations subdivided into discrete demes.’
    • ‘Several of these still capture the essence of island-model subdivision, that is, greater relatedness within than between demes, while others collapse to the unstructured case.’


From Greek dēmos ‘people’; deme (sense 2) is an extended use dating from the 1930s.