Simple Definition of milieu
: the physical or social setting in which people live or in which something happens or develops
Examples of milieu in a sentence
Theirs was a bohemian milieu in which people often played romantic musical chairs. —Edmund White, New York Review of Books, 12 Feb. 2009
People in France admire the United States, and much of what passes for anti-Americanism is limited to the intellectual milieu of Paris. —Jonathan Alter et al., Newsweek, 29 May 2000
She might stay home, might marry and live as a housewife. And if her milieu does not sanction such a solution, there are, she knows, milieux which do. —David Mamet, Jafsie and John Henry: Essays, 1999
Certainly there are very few American milieus today in which having read the latest work of Joyce Carol Oates or Richard Ford is more valuable, as social currency, than having caught the latest John Travolta movie or knowing how to navigate the Web. —Jonathan Franzen, Harper's, April 1996
They're caught in their own hazy milieu—working, smoking, talking, drinking. —Gerri Hirshey, Rolling Stone, 12 Nov. 1992
<young, innovative artists thrive in the freewheeling milieu that a big city offers>
Did You Know?
The etymology of milieu comes down to "mi" and "lieu." English speakers learned the word (and borrowed both its spelling and meaning) from French. The modern French term comes from two much older French forms, mi, meaning "middle," and lieu, meaning "place." Like so many terms in the Romance languages, those Old French forms can ultimately be traced to Latin; "mi" is an offspring of the Latin medius(meaning "middle") and "lieu" is a derivative of "locus" (meaning "place"). English speakers have used "milieu" for the environment or setting of something since at least the mid-1800s, but other "lieu" descendants are much older. We've used both "lieu" itself (meaning "place" or "stead," as in "in lieu of") and "lieutenant" since the 14th century.
Synonym Discussion of milieu
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