In the analysis of personality, the term archetype is often broadly used to refer to
- a stereotype—personality type observed multiple times, especially an oversimplification of such a type; or
- an epitome—personality type exemplified, especially the "greatest" such example.
But in a strict linguistic sense, an archetype is merely a defining example of a personality type. In this sense "mother figure" can be considered an archetype and instances can be found in various female characters with distinct personalities.
Archetypes have been present in mythology and literature for hundreds of years. The use of archetypes to analyze personality was advanced by Carl Jung early in the 20th century. The value in using archetypal characters in fiction derives from the fact that a large group of people are able to unconsciously recognize the archetype, and thus the motivations, behind the character's behavior.
The word archetype appeared in European texts as early as 1545. It derives from the Latin noun archetypum via the Greek noun arkhetypon and adjective arkhetypos, meaning "first-moulded". The Greek roots are arkhe- ("first" or "original") + typos ("model", "type", "blow", "mark of a blow").
- Jung, C. G., (1934–1954). The Archetypes and The Collective Unconscious. (1981 2nd ed. Collected Works Vol.9 Part 1), Princeton, N.J.: Bollingen. ISBN 0-691-01833-2
- Arrien, Angeles (1992). Signs Of Life: The Five Universal Shapes And How To Use Them. Sonoma, CA, USA: Arcus Publishing Company. ISBN 0-916955-10-9