What Is Folklore? - Definition, Legends & Myths

Lesson Transcript
Arlean Plummer
Expert Contributor
Jenna Clayton

Jenna received her BA in English from Iowa State University in 2015, and she has taught at the secondary level for three years.

Folklore is the oral history, traditional beliefs, customs, and stories of a community. Learn the definition of folklore and discover popular legends and myths. Updated: 09/14/2021

Definition of Folklore

Folklore is oral history that is preserved by the people of the culture, consisting of traditions belonging to a specific culture. These traditions usually include music, stories, history, legends, and myths. Folklore is passed down from generation to generation and is kept active by the people in the culture.

Folklore allows people to give meaning to their lives and their surroundings. Because every culture has different historical backgrounds and traditions, folklore has a different definition to each culture. The definition presented in this lesson is a general one that covers the topic broadly.

A famous folklore in American history is the tall tale about the fictional lumberjack Paul Bunyan. In the story, Paul has superhuman skills that allow him to complete tasks that other lumberjacks are unable to complete on their own, such as taming the blue ox named Babe.

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: What is Modern Fantasy Literature? - Definition, Authors & Novels

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 Definition of Folklore
  • 0:51 Myths
  • 1:51 Legends
  • 2:31 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed


The term myth is derived from the Greek word mythos, which means story. Myths are commonly used to describe the origins of a group of people, the beginning of the universe, natural events or the rituals and traditions of a specific culture. For example, a myth can be used to explain the origin of a holiday or cultural tradition.

Mythical stories are usually characterized by nonhuman characters and magical events that cannot be proven to be true or false. They answer questions that have unknown answers in the real world. Myths usually contain creatures and places that are not real. However, they usually provide an answer to a valuable philosophical questions, such as 'what happens after death?'

Greek gods and goddesses are the main characters in many famous Greek mythological stories. According to these stories, the gods and goddesses are usually to blame for any and all natural events, such as rain and thunder and even emotion, like love.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Additional Activities

Folklore Activity

Legends and Myths Multimedia Presentation

For this activity, you will need to choose any legend or myth that interests you to write about and research. First, read the legend or myth. You will then need to include the following information in a multi-media presentation.

  • Title Page (Include the name of the legend or myth that you chose, your name, and a picture that relates to your chosen folklore.)
  • Culture and Historical Background (Research the history behind your chosen folklore, and provide any relevant or interesting information about the origin of your story.)
  • Interesting Stories or Facts
  • Summary of the Legend/Myth
  • Explanation of why your given folklore is either a myth or a legend (What makes it a legend/myth?)
  • Works Cited/References (Include the sources that you used.)

The two most important components of this assignment are the second and third bullet points. For the second bullet point, the focus is on the origin of your legend/myth. What country does it come from? How did the legend/myth originate? For the third bullet point, you can include any interesting information that you found about your piece of folklore. For example, you can include any pop culture references or any conspiracy theories that you find amusing. One common Scottish folklore is that of the Loch ness monster. There have been many supposed sightings of this sea legend, and some people spend their lives in search of this monster. This could be some information to include under the 'interesting stories or facts' section.

Once you are done creating your presentation, make sure to proofread, edit, and revise before publishing or turning-in.

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it now
Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account