milieu

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

Monk transports the figure of Alexandra into a symbolic milieu, one that hovers between the mid-twentieth century and the timeless landscape of Buddhist fable. Alex Ross, The New Yorker, "Meredith Monk’s “ATLAS” and the L.A. Phil’s Extraordinary Season," 24 June 2019 Memorable images, easily grasped and capable of exerting a strong popular appeal—these are the qualities of the paintings known in France as belonging to the juste milieu, the middle of the road. James Fenton, The New York Review of Books, "Nasty & Nice," 9 May 2019 No biographer could have a more intimate, even sensuous grasp of the whole Churchillian milieu, from his birth in Blenheim Palace to his state funeral in St. Paul’s ninety years later. Andrew Roberts, The New York Review of Books, "Nasty, Brutish, and Great," 6 June 2019 But string theory flourishes in this milieu, positing extra spatial dimensions that diffuse the energy. Quanta Magazine, "Physicists Hunt for the Big Bang’s Triangles," 19 Apr. 2016 For the most part the 400-year-old text and updated milieu mesh nicely. Allison Adato, EW.com, "Danielle Brooks shines in a near-perfect Much Ado About Nothing: EW review," 12 June 2019 Ada is a predominately white community, and this is not the first true-crime documentary set in a white milieu. Taylor Antrim, Vogue, "Is the True-Crime Fever Breaking? Watching Netflix’s John Grisham Documentary The Innocent Man," 14 Dec. 2018 In contrast to the intentionally eerie milieu Lo set, the beauty was decidedly softer, but no less arresting. Lauren Valenti, Vogue, "The Pearl Hair Barrettes at Ryan Lo’s Romantic London Show Are Surprisingly DIY," 15 Feb. 2019 The Rose Martini at The Setai The Setai—the ultra-luxe hotel, which also has residences—is as close to an oasis as one can get in the milieu of Miami Beach. Nick Remsen, Vogue, "The Best New Drinks to Try in Miami During Art Basel," 3 Dec. 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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Last Updated

15 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for milieu

The first known use of milieu was in 1854

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More Definitions for milieu

milieu

noun

English Language Learners Definition of milieu

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

milieu

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

Medical Definition of milieu

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More from Merriam-Webster on milieu

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with milieu

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for milieu

Spanish Central: Translation of milieu

Nglish: Translation of milieu for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of milieu for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about milieu

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