noun mi·lieu \ mēl-ˈyər , -ˈyə , -ˈyü , -ˈyœ ; ˈmēl-ˌyü \
|Updated on: 15 Jul 2018

Definition of milieu

plural milieus or milieux play \-ˈyə(r)(z), -ˈyüz, -ˈyœ(z); -ˌyü(z)\
: the physical or social setting in which something occurs or develops : environment

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Examples of milieu in a Sentence

  1. Theirs was a bohemian milieu in which people often played romantic musical chairs. —Edmund WhiteNew York Review of Books12 Feb. 2009
  2. 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.Newsweek29 May 2000
  3. 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 MametJafsie and John Henry: Essays1999
  4. 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 FranzenHarper'sApril 1996
  5. They're caught in their own hazy milieu—working, smoking, talking, drinking. —Gerri HirsheyRolling Stone12 Nov. 1992
  6. young, innovative artists thrive in the freewheeling milieu that a big city offers

Recent Examples of milieu from the Web

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.

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.

Origin and Etymology of milieu

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

Synonym Discussion of 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 Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of milieu for English Language Learners

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

Medical Dictionary


noun mi·lieu \ mēl-ˈyə(r) , -ˈyü; ˈmēl-ˌyü , mē-lyœ̅ \

medical Definition of milieu

plural milieus or milieux play \-ˈyə(r)(z), -ˈyüz; -ˌyü(z), -lyœ̅(z)\

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a downward inclination or slope

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