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 milieu (audio) , -​ˈyə(r)(z) How to pronounce milieu (audio) , -​ˈyœ(z) ; ˈmēl-​ˌyü(z) \

Definition of milieu

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

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

Milieu comes from Old French mi (meaning "middle") and lieu ("place"). The word refers to an environment or setting. In English, lieu also is used to mean "place" and most often occurs in the phrase "in lieu of," as in "Cash is preferred but in lieu of cash a credit card is acceptable."

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 See More
Recent Examples on the Web Tracey Goessel, a writer and film preservationist, brings Fairbanks and his milieu to life in a work brimming with historical detail. Lara Gabrielle, WSJ, 9 Sep. 2022 In his milieu, the brightest graduates were expected to study medicine in Edinburgh, but MacAskill, as class dux, or valedictorian, won a place to read philosophy at Cambridge. Gideon Lewis-kraus, The New Yorker, 8 Aug. 2022 Maxwell is the daughter of wealthy publisher Robert Maxwell, and was reared in a milieu that included mansions, exclusive schools, and a family yacht. Colin Moynihan,, 26 Aug. 2022 Army life is very different from the opera-house milieu, Vitaliy said, but there are certain similarities between his previous calling and his current one. Los Angeles Times, 1 Aug. 2022 The decision proved that the traditionalists inside of the conservative legal movement aren’t just the Charlie Brown to a libertarian Lucy’s football; the long strategy of creating an alternative intellectual milieu in the law actually succeeded. Emma Green, The New Yorker, 24 July 2022 Indeed, The Last Starfighter‘s most winning moments come from this film’s set-in-the-everyday milieu. Duane Byrge, The Hollywood Reporter, 13 July 2022 The shift is a canny one, however, with the Second World War milieu giving the filmmakers an obvious reason to essentially recycle the first film’s premise of city kids adapting and exploring when relocated to the Yorkshire countryside. Guy Lodge, Variety, 3 July 2022 Yet another approach involves folding the exception into the rest of the average-case milieu. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 3 Aug. 2022 See More

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.

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

11 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Milieu.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Oct. 2022.

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More Definitions for milieu


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 milieu (audio) \

Medical Definition of milieu

More from Merriam-Webster on milieu

Nglish: Translation of milieu for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of milieu for Arabic Speakers Encyclopedia article about milieu


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