mi·​as·​ma | \ mī-ˈaz-mə How to pronounce miasma (audio) , mē- \
plural miasmas also miasmata\ mī-​ˈaz-​mə-​tə How to pronounce miasma (audio) , mē-​ \

Definition of miasma

1 : a vaporous exhalation formerly believed to cause disease also : a heavy vaporous emanation (see emanation sense 2) or atmosphere a miasma of tobacco smoke
2 : an influence or atmosphere that tends to deplete or corrupt freed from the miasma of poverty— Sir Arthur Bryant the enervating miasma of fearThe Times Literary Supplement (London) also : an atmosphere that obscures : fog

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Other Words from miasma

miasmal \ mī-​ˈaz-​məl How to pronounce miasma (audio) , mē-​ \ adjective
miasmatic \ ˌmī-​əz-​ˈma-​tik How to pronounce miasma (audio) , mē-​ \ adjective
miasmic \ mī-​ˈaz-​mik How to pronounce miasma (audio) , mē-​ \ adjective
miasmically \ mī-​ˈaz-​mi-​k(ə-​)lē How to pronounce miasma (audio) , mē-​ \ adverb

Did you know?

In notes taken during a voyage to South America on HMS Beagle in the 1830s, Charles Darwin described an illness that he believed was caused by "miasma" emanating from stagnant pools of water. For him, "miasma" had the same meaning that it did when it first appeared in English in the 1600s: an emanation of a vaporous disease-causing substance. ("Miasma," by the way, comes from Greek miainein, meaning "to pollute.") But while Darwin was at sea, broader applications of "miasma" were starting to spread. Nowadays, we know germs are the source of infection, so we're more likely to use the newer, more figurative sense of "miasma," which refers to something destructive or demoralizing that surrounds or permeates.

Examples of miasma in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Across Europe and later in North America, people believed that the earth was swarming with millions of demons, which, like miasma, couldn’t be seen, and multiplied until the air was supposedly filled with them. Edward Chancellor, The New York Review of Books, 19 Aug. 2021 But to get there, a reader has to wade through a miasma of awkward phrasing in this clunky English translation by Daniel Hahn. Washington Post, 12 Aug. 2021 All those tiny pieces of ash combining to shroud Lake Tahoe, a gray miasma that warns of the megafire just eight miles from the shore. New York Times, 1 Sep. 2021 By the end of this new Candyman, little personal investment remains for the audience, just a miasma of provocative thoughts failing to cohere into something greater. David Sims, The Atlantic, 25 Aug. 2021 Its nauseating miasma attracts phalanxes of rats and pigeons; the latter swarm at all hours around the skeletal remains of the silos. Los Angeles Times, 4 Aug. 2021 The show was best in its earlier seasons, when Gossip Girl was less of an independent actor and more Upper East Side surveillance miasma. Jackson Mchenry, Vulture, 8 July 2021 So far, the Games have been a miasma of continuously shifting protocols. Ann Killion, San Francisco Chronicle, 16 July 2021 And since Tropical Storm Elsa swept Florida last week, the problem has become worse, as strong winds pushed scores of lifeless fish onto the shores of St. Petersburg, surrounding residents and visitors in a miasma of rotting death. Washington Post, 12 July 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'miasma.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of miasma

1665, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for miasma

New Latin, from Greek, defilement, from miainein to pollute

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Last Updated

13 Oct 2021

Cite this Entry

“Miasma.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/miasma. Accessed 15 Oct. 2021.

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More Definitions for miasma



English Language Learners Definition of miasma

: a heavy cloud of something unpleasant or unhealthy


mi·​as·​ma | \ mī-ˈaz-mə How to pronounce miasma (audio) , mē- How to pronounce miasma (audio) \
plural miasmas also miasmata\ -​mət-​ə How to pronounce miasma (audio) \

Medical Definition of miasma

: a vaporous exhalation (as of a marshy region or of putrescent matter) formerly believed to cause disease (as malaria)

Other Words from miasma

miasmal \ -​məl How to pronounce miasma (audio) \ adjective
miasmatic \ ˌmī-​əz-​ˈmat-​ik How to pronounce miasma (audio) \ adjective
miasmic \ mī-​ˈaz-​mik How to pronounce miasma (audio) , mē-​ How to pronounce miasma (audio) \ adjective


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