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

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

On the stigmas attached to being overweight: In 2002, Al was reluctant to talk about his surgery in fear of the way overweight people are treated. Kayla Keegan, Good Housekeeping, "'Today' Show Host Al Roker's Weight-Loss Journey in His Own Words," 26 Nov. 2018 Like the cultural stigma that surrounds mental health services, the issue of underrepresentation in the psychology field won’t be solved overnight. Vanessa Willhoughby, Allure, "The Reality of Navigating the Mental Health System as a Black Woman," 13 Oct. 2018 At the height of HIV/AIDS epidemic, there was a lot of fear and stigma. Rob Ledonne,, "San Diego Pride 2018: Where music and LGBTQ activism go hand-in-hand," 11 July 2018 Up until now, those who refused the mandatory military service for men between the ages of 18 and 28 faced up to three years in jail and risked social stigma. Casey Quackenbush, Time, "South Korean Men Will Soon be Able to Choose an Alternative to Mandatory Military Service," 29 June 2018 Despite the stigma, these birds have some impressive skills. Charlotte Hu, Discover Magazine, "Pigeons," 15 June 2018 In recent years, a growing number of celebrities, including Demi Lovato, Mariah Carey and Carrie Fisher, have spoken out about having bipolar disorder, helping to ease the stigma that long surrounded the condition. Ashley Welch, CBS News, "Kate Spade's death prompts questions about bipolar disorder," 6 June 2018 The Cut spoke to three men who ignored the social stigma and opted to take their wife’s last name anyway. Alexa Tsoulis-reay, The Cut, "3 Married Men on Taking Their Wife’s Last Name," 24 May 2018 Thankfully, several organizations and the people who work for them are making strides to change the mental health stigma. Guest Columnist/,, "Let's talk openly about mental illness: Katie Khoury (Opinion)," 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

12 Dec 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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More from Merriam-Webster on stigma

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with stigma

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for stigma

Spanish Central: Translation of stigma

Nglish: Translation of stigma for Spanish Speakers

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

Comments on stigma

What made you want to look up stigma? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


a nest or breeding place

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