stig·ma | \ ˈstig-mə \
plural stigmata\stig-ˈmä-tə, ˈstig-mə-tə \ or stigmas

Definition of stigma 

1a archaic : a scar left by a hot iron : brand

b : a mark of shame or discredit : stain bore the stigma of cowardice

c : an identifying mark or characteristic specifically : a specific diagnostic sign of a disease

2a stigmata plural : bodily marks or pains resembling the wounds of the crucified Jesus and sometimes accompanying religious ecstasy

b : petechia

3a : a small spot, scar, or opening on a plant or animal

b : the usually apical part of the pistil of a flower which receives the pollen grains and on which they germinate — see flower illustration

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Other words from stigma

stigmal \ˈstig-məl \ adjective

Synonyms for stigma


blot, brand, slur, smirch, smudge, spot, stain, taint

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Did You Know?

In Greek and Latin, a stigma was a mark or brand, especially one that marked a slave, so a stigma marked a person as inferior. When the plural form stigmata is used, it usually refers to the nail wounds on Christ's hands and feet, wounds which have sometimes reappeared on the hands or feet of later worshippers such as St. Francis. When stigma began to be used in English, it usually meant the kind of mark or stain you can't actually see. So today we hear about the stigma of homelessness, the stigma of overweight, and the stigma of mental illness. People may be so afraid of being stigmatized for losing a job that they'll put on their office clothes and drive out their driveways every weekday morning so that the neighbors won't know.

Examples of stigma in a Sentence

There's a social stigma attached to receiving welfare. the stigma of slavery remained long after it had been abolished

Recent Examples on the Web

But sharing our struggles helps remove the stigma, reframe our stories, and instill hope. Clay Marsh, STAT, "Facing deaths of despair from the depths of despair in West Virginia," 12 July 2018 And there was a stigma for years and years in British society [about being gay]. Christina Boyle,, "Britain's royal family is ready for its first same-sex marriage — even as some straight Britons opt out," 3 July 2018 Society began to reckon with the stigma, shame, intimidation and trauma that kept those victims from coming forward. Ruth Padawer, New York Times, "Should Statutes of Limitations for Rape Be Abolished?," 19 June 2018 Unfortunately, the stigma that typically accompanies the public’s perception of mental illness challenges lawyer’s ability to address their need for help. Jane Wooldridge, miamiherald, "Following wave of suicides, Florida Bar president put mental health on the docket," 9 June 2018 Issues such as lack of information, stigma, and distrust of government facilities remain among the chief reasons most women in rural areas don't ask important questions of their healthcare providers. Rojita Adhikari, CNN, "Pro-life activists target rural Nepali women," 8 June 2018 Mental illness may have its stigma, but madness has a certain style. Kevin Fisher-paulson, San Francisco Chronicle, "With my teenagers, it’s my fault that everything’s my fault," 29 May 2018 After decades of stigma, impressive research is showing the power of these substances to help sufferers of depression and addiction, or to comfort patients with a terminal cancer diagnosis, struggling to face their own end. Gareth Cook, Scientific American, "The Science of Altering Consciousness," 15 May 2018 Less stigma to holding debt What's driving the increase in senior debt? Russ Wiles, azcentral, "The new normal: Carrying debt at age 75 and up," 6 May 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'stigma.' 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 stigma

circa 1593, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for stigma

Latin stigmat-, stigma mark, brand, from Greek, from stizein to tattoo — more at stick

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Statistics for stigma

Last Updated

19 Sep 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for stigma

The first known use of stigma was circa 1593

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More Definitions for stigma



English Language Learners Definition of stigma

: a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something

botany : the top part in the center of a flower which receives the pollen


stig·ma | \ ˈstig-mə \
plural stigmata\stig-ˈmä-tə, ˈstig-mə-tə \ or stigmas

Kids Definition of stigma

1 : a mark of disgrace or dishonor

2 : the upper part of the pistil of a flower which receives the pollen grains


stig·ma | \ ˈstig-mə \
plural stigmata\stig-ˈmät-ə, ˈstig-mət-ə \ or stigmas

Medical Definition of stigma 

1 : an identifying mark or characteristic specifically : a specific diagnostic sign of a disease the stigmata of syphilis

2 : petechia

3 : a small spot, scar, or opening on a plant or animal

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