miasma

noun

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-
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 povertySir Arthur Bryant
the enervating miasma of fearThe Times Literary Supplement (London)
also : an atmosphere that obscures : fog
miasmal adjective
miasmatic adjective
miasmic adjective
miasmically adverb

Did you know?

In notes taken during a voyage to South America on the 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 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.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Using the science of the time, Rauch relied on miasma theory and warned that diseases could vaporize from the burial grounds and be carried by winds into the city. Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi, Discover Magazine, 18 Oct. 2021 Enlarge / Not pictured: the things that are far more dangerous to fortress-dwelling dwarves, like poor site planning, miasma, and a lack of drink. Kevin Purdy, Ars Technica, 5 Dec. 2022 It’s not a miasma of moisture that settles like a blanket over the whole subcontinent from June to September, bringing constant precipitation. Henry Fountain, New York Times, 7 Oct. 2022 Bannos says there wasn’t a big scandal — even though miasma had been cited as a great need to relocate the bodies. Emilie Le Beau Lucchesi, Discover Magazine, 18 Oct. 2021 There were lepidopterists and ornithologists, who found pleasure in exploring the unique miasma of nutrients and flora that could allow a species of insect or bird to evolve and thrive just there and only there. WIRED, 27 Sep. 2022 There are oracular moments when their covert scheming about media manipulation and societal fracture darkly foreshadows our current political miasma. Sam Sacks, WSJ, 2 Sep. 2022 My assumption had been that words would lead my daughter out of her miasma of depression and anger. Wired, 5 July 2022 Pollution has plunged Urumqi into a disorienting miasma of fog. Sam Sacks, WSJ, 16 Sep. 2022 See More

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.

Word History

Etymology

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

First Known Use

1665, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of miasma was in 1665

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Dictionary Entries Near miasma

Cite this Entry

“Miasma.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/miasma. Accessed 9 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition

miasma

noun
mi·​as·​ma mī-ˈaz-mə How to pronounce miasma (audio)
mē-
plural miasmas or miasmata -mət-ə How to pronounce miasma (audio)
1
: a vapor from a swamp formerly believed to cause disease
2
: a harmful influence or atmosphere
miasmal adjective
miasmatic adjective

Medical Definition

miasma

noun
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)
: a vaporous exhalation (as of a marshy region or of putrescent matter) formerly believed to cause disease (as malaria)
miasmal adjective
miasmatic adjective
miasmic adjective
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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