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 To them, and to their social milieu, Karen and Barry Mason were a conventional, middle-class Jewish couple. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Reagan, Gay Porn, and Family Secrets Star in Circus of Books," 28 Apr. 2020 With little help from that quarter, Daniel tries to make sense of his new and radically different milieu but cannot shake off his upbringing. Dennis Drabelle, Washington Post, "Five years after Henning Mankell’s death, his gritty first novel makes a welcome appearance," 5 Mar. 2020 After an abortive and agonizing affair with a fellow student from his own upper-class milieu, Hall meets Alec Scudder on a visit to his ex’s estate. Hugh Ryan, Town & Country, "Downton Abbey's Thomas Barrow and the Future of the Gay Past," 16 Sep. 2019 But that doesn’t mean adjustments haven’t had to happen — all of it taking place in a milieu of declining residential and outpatient enrollment and the revenue that funds such programs. Melissa Fletcher Stoeltje, ExpressNews.com, "To stay sober during the coronavirus pandemic, members of 12-Step groups move online," 3 Apr. 2020 His liberalism seems to have been inspired, indirectly, by the Catholic milieu of his early life and his parents’ aversion to the abuse of the weak by the strong. David Sessions, The New Republic, "Joe Biden’s Endless Search for a Message," 12 Mar. 2020 Presented through the ironic 20-20 lens of hindsight, the mid-lengther plunges the audience into the noisy milieu of a 1982 house-party thrown to celebrate the general election victory of the Socialist Party. Neil Young, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Year of the Discovery' ('El ano del descubrimiento'): Film Review | Rotterdam 2020," 26 Jan. 2020 These essays examine the white bourgeois milieu of present-day tastemakers in downtown New York, with detours into adjacent topics, such as music festivals and influencers. Emilia Clarke, The New Yorker, "Briefly Noted," 31 Dec. 2019 Edgeworth and authors who wrote in a similar vein influenced other Victorian and Edwardian authors who, in turn, provided more body to the milieu’s conceptions of girlhood. Longreads, "“The Leaky Vessel”: On Lewis Carroll and the Perils of Being Female," 27 Mar. 2020

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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Time Traveler for milieu

Time Traveler

The first known use of milieu was in 1854

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Statistics for milieu

Last Updated

19 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Milieu.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/milieu. Accessed 31 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for milieu

milieu

noun
How to pronounce milieu (audio) How to pronounce milieu (audio)

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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