mi·as·ma | \mī-ˈaz-mə, mē-\
plural miasmas also miasmata\-mə-tə \

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 \-məl \ adjective
miasmatic \ˌmī-əz-ˈma-tik \ adjective
miasmic \mī-ˈaz-mik, mē- \ adjective
miasmically \-mi-k(ə-)lē \ 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

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 Some of her live sounds — including gentle whispers and back-of-the-throat clicks — were blended with prerecorded tracks in a surround-sound miasma. Seth Colter Walls, New York Times, "Two Downtown Luminaries, Still Blazing," 20 Apr. 2018 Amid the commercial miasma swirling around Sunday's Super Bowl telecast, one advertisement actually stood out as something of a cultural and social event. Michael Hiltzik, latimes.com, "That Dodge trucks Super Bowl ad shows it's time to loosen the King family's grip on MLK's legacy," 5 Feb. 2018 The miasma surrounding Coleman Coliseum these days is inescapable. Rainer Sabin, AL.com, "Alabama looking to remove dark cloud over team," 26 Feb. 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.

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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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Statistics for miasma

Last Updated

7 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for miasma

The first known use of miasma was in 1665

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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, mē- \
plural miasmas also miasmata\-mət-ə \

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 \ adjective
miasmatic \ˌmī-əz-ˈmat-ik \ adjective
miasmic \mī-ˈaz-mik, mē- \ adjective

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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).


exaggeratedly or childishly emotional

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