mi·​lieu | \mēl-ˈyər, -ˈyə, -ˈyü, -ˈyœ;ˈmēl-ˌyü \
plural milieus or milieux\ -​ˈyə(r)(z) , -​ˈyüz, -​ˈyœ(z) ; -​ˌyü(z) \

Definition of milieu 

: the physical or social setting in which something occurs or develops : environment

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Choose the Right Synonym for milieu

background, setting, environment, milieu, mise-en-scène mean the place, time, and circumstances in which something occurs. background often refers to the circumstances or events that precede a phenomenon or development. the shocking decision was part of the background of the riots setting suggests looking at real-life situations in literary or dramatic terms. a militant reformer who was born into an unlikely social setting environment applies to all the external factors that have a formative influence on one's physical, mental, or moral development. the kind of environment that produces juvenile delinquents milieu applies especially to the physical and social surroundings of a person or group of persons. an intellectual milieu conducive to artistic experimentation mise-en-scène strongly suggests the use of properties to achieve a particular atmosphere or theatrical effect. a gothic thriller with a carefully crafted mise-en-scène

Milieu Entered English in the 1800s

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.

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
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Recent Examples on the Web

Di Benedetto focused on Zama and his would-be European milieu and largely ignored the colony’s enslaved people and indigenous inhabitants. J. Hoberman, New York Times, "Lucrecia Martel: A Director Who Confounds and Thrills," 13 Apr. 2018 The Japanese playwrights, dancers, film directors and actors who made up Buruma’s milieu in the mid-1970s adored him. Dwight Garner, New York Times, "How Life as a Foreigner Helped Shape a Man of Letters," 26 Feb. 2018 Motherhood joins How Should a Person Be? and Women in Clothes to form what might be read as a field guide to womanhood in a particular literary-bohemian milieu. Molly Fischer, The Cut, "Should Sheila Heti Have a Baby?," 1 May 2018 Talley's colorful, confessional commentary is the strongest aspect of the admiring film which otherwise doesn't delve too deeply into the milieu in which he's spent his life. Frank Scheck, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Gospel According to Andre': Film Review | Tribeca 2018," 27 Apr. 2018 But make no mistake: The noxious personality cocktail that gave the entire season the distinct vibe of oozing toxicity also brought about a seismic shift in TRW’s milieu, which became only too apparent in the following season, set in Hawaii. Rebecca Schuman, Longreads, "When ‘The Real World’ Gave Up on Reality," 6 June 2018 But neither Allan nor Diane saw a future in what was then a relatively risk-free milieu. Alicia Ault, Smithsonian, "A Window into the World of Diane Arbus," 24 Apr. 2018 Advancements in communication and transportation had accelerated religious and cultural exchange and deepened interconnectivity within the milieu of Theravada Buddhism, the predominant strain of Buddhism in Southeast Asia. Amar Diwakar, The New Republic, "Saffron Curtain: How Buddhism Was Weaponized During the Cold War," 23 Mar. 2018 So the suffocating social milieu is defused by the mature perspective of a man who has survived to tell the tale. Christopher Arnott,, "Hartford Stage's Lush, Elegant 'Age Of Innocence' Adapted To Be Freshly Relevant," 16 Apr. 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'milieu.' 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 milieu

1854, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for milieu

French, from Old French, midst, from mi middle (from Latin medius) + lieu place, from Latin locus — more at mid, stall

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4 Nov 2018

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Time Traveler for milieu

The first known use of milieu was in 1854

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English Language Learners Definition of milieu

: the physical or social setting in which people live or in which something happens or develops


mi·​lieu | \mēl-ˈyə(r), -ˈyü; ˈmēl-ˌyü, mē-lyœ̅\
plural milieus or milieux\ -​ˈyə(r)(z), -​ˈyüz; -​ˌyü(z), -​lyœ̅(z) \

Medical Definition of milieu 

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Comments on milieu

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to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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