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

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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from miasma

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

The red miasma swam before her eyes, her stomach churned in IT’s rhythm. Meghan Cox Gurdon, WSJ, "Children’s Books: Stirring Up Fresh Life Endlessly," 21 Dec. 2018 And others still are sleeping in their cars or camping in tent cities that have organically emerged in the miasma of the inferno. Umair Irfan, Vox, "The Paradise fire is catastrophic. And the wildfire threat to California is only growing.," 17 Nov. 2018 And here are some thoughts on our current miasma of tribalistic partisanship, which now touches and transforms everything in our public life — even the weather. Recode Staff, Recode, "Recode Daily: Apple’s new iPhones, Uber’s new logo, Juul’s new problem," 13 Sep. 2018 But the canals, what’s left of them, now are lined with trash and exude a miasma tinged with the scent of sewage. Nabih Bulos, latimes.com, "Basra was once a jewel of a city. Now it's a symbol what's wrong in Iraq," 17 June 2018 In this perpetual winter, the miasma of whirring synths contrasts with introspective vocal deliveries that are half-spoken. Billboard Staff, Billboard, "BTS' 50 Best Songs: Critics' Picks," 12 June 2018 Actions were extreme because paganism was considered not just a psychological but a physical miasma. Bettany Hughes, New York Times, "How Christians Destroyed the Ancient World," 8 June 2018 Eventually a miasma of unreality comes to pervade the book. Annika Neklason, The Atlantic, "‘The Trust of the Reader Is Distrusted by Roth’," 24 May 2018 An acrid miasma emanates from the pan in which the detritus sits. Robert Hackett, Fortune, "How JPMorgan Chase Learned to Love the Blockchain," 24 May 2018

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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about miasma

Listen to Our Podcast about miasma

Dictionary Entries near miasma








Statistics for miasma

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for miasma

The first known use of miasma was in 1665

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for miasma



English Language Learners Definition of miasma

formal + literary : 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 miasmata (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 miasmal (audio) \ adjective
miasmatic \ ˌmī-​əz-​ˈmat-​ik How to pronounce miasmatic (audio) \ adjective
miasmic \ mī-​ˈaz-​mik How to pronounce miasmic (audio) , mē-​ How to pronounce miasmic (audio) \ adjective

Keep scrolling for more

More from Merriam-Webster on miasma

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with miasma

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for miasma

Spanish Central: Translation of miasma

Nglish: Translation of miasma for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of miasma for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about miasma

Comments on miasma

What made you want to look up miasma? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


an enemy or opponent

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Name That Thing: Animal Edition

  • alt 5a023732e6f75
  • Name that animal:
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!