stig·​ma | \ ˈstig-mə How to pronounce stigma (audio) \
plural stigmas or stigmata\ stig-​ˈmä-​tə How to pronounce stigmata (audio) , ˈstig-​mə-​tə How to pronounce stigmata (audio) \

Definition of stigma

1a : a mark of shame or discredit : stain bore the stigma of cowardice
b plural usually stigmata : an identifying mark or characteristic specifically : a specific diagnostic sign of a disease
2a plural usually stigmas : the usually apical part of the pistil of a flower which receives the pollen grains and on which they germinate — see flower illustration
b : a small spot, scar, or opening on a plant or animal
3a stigmata plural : bodily marks or pains resembling the wounds of the crucified Jesus and sometimes accompanying religious ecstasy
4 archaic : a scar left by a hot iron : brand

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Other Words from stigma

stigmal \ ˈstig-​məl How to pronounce stigmal (audio) \ 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 After his death, his parents started the Tim Bergling Foundation to advocate for the recognition of suicide as a global health emergency, and to remove the stigma of mental illness. CBS News, "A year after suicide, Avicii's father opens up about his "brave" son," 21 Oct. 2019 The campaign aims to change the conversation regarding mental health, reducing stigma in the process. Amy Mackelden, Harper's BAZAAR, "Prince William Wants to Change the Conversation Regarding Mental Health," 4 Aug. 2019 Experts have said that some of the increase may be driven by successful efforts to reduce the stigma surrounding mental-health issues and counseling. Michael Gold, New York Times, "3 Suicides in 2 Months Jolt a College Campus," 6 Dec. 2019 In these situations, black employees may downplay their race and try to reduce the stigma attached to it in the presence of others. Ellen Mcgirt, Fortune, "Can You Really Bring Your Whole Self to Work?," 4 Dec. 2019 Their programs strive to start a conversation about mental health that reduces stigma while encouraging help-seeking and supportive behaviors., "Community News For The West Hartford Edition," 2 Dec. 2019 The idea was to design an organization that would not only work to decrease the negative aspects of incarceration but also reduce the stigma and isolation that affects those who are touched by the criminal justice system. Gabrielle Canon, USA TODAY, "Jessica Jackson, a single mom from California, took on the prison system — and changed her life," 29 Nov. 2019 This kind of training could also reduce stigma surrounding mental health issues and help ensure confidentiality when people share personal experiences at work. Marc Zao-sanders, Quartz at Work, "Can the dreaded compliance meeting save our workforce from a mental-health crisis?," 1 Nov. 2019 Those affected by the suicides say removing the stigma of seeking help is the first step in combating this epidemic. CBS News, "Police officers vow to address cop suicide crisis: "Let's just all admit we're broken"," 30 Oct. 2019

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 4

History and Etymology for stigma

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

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Time Traveler for stigma

Time Traveler

The first known use of stigma was circa 1593

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Statistics for stigma

Last Updated

10 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Stigma.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 23 January 2020.

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More Definitions for stigma


How to pronounce stigma (audio)

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 How to pronounce stigma (audio) \
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 How to pronounce stigma (audio) \
plural stigmata\ stig-​ˈmät-​ə How to pronounce stigmata (audio) , ˈstig-​mət-​ə How to pronounce stigmata (audio) \ or stigmas

Medical Definition of stigma

1 : an identifying mark or characteristic specifically : a specific diagnostic sign of a disease the stigmata of syphilis
3 : a small spot, scar, or opening on a plant or animal

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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).


out of the ordinary or unreasonable

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