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 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

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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 This is an outrageous milieu populated by wealthy naval captains, lesbian headmistresses, and gorgeous teenagers whose internal monologues are master classes in cynicism. Lauren Mechling, Town & Country, 9 July 2021 Vienna’s political, social and cultural milieu forms the backdrop to the first half of Gödel’s life and has a central place in Mr. Budiansky’s narrative. David Edmonds, WSJ, 14 May 2021 Haynes is more invested in conjuring a vibe, placing the viewer smack in the middle of the mid-60s milieu that produced seminal figures like Reed and Warhol. New York Times, 8 July 2021 She's swept into his WASP-y milieu, charmed by his manners and thrilled by his wild stories and lust. Marci Schmitt, Star Tribune, 4 July 2021 His audacious independence was enabled by willful isolation, at his family’s Aix-en-Provence estate, far from the competitive milieu of Paris, where even the most adventurous of his contemporaries had to subsist on sales. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, 21 June 2021 In interviews with two dozen people living in or near downtown, the residents described the past year as a milieu of fear, trepidation and loneliness. oregonlive, 5 June 2021 These competing ideas paint opposing pictures of a black hole’s milieu and, in particular, the origin and strength of its magnetic field. Quanta Magazine, 20 May 2021 But as much thanks to its highly Pennsylvanian milieu, and the fact that our highly Pennsylvanian hero, Mare — whose O’s stretch longer than the Delaware Water Gap — is played by arguably the most British living person, Kate Winslet. Casey Mink, Vulture, 31 May 2021

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

25 Jul 2021

Cite this Entry

“Milieu.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/milieu. Accessed 29 Jul. 2021.

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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 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

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about milieu

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