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

Appropriate for a new Moz, Maltese is more than willing to speak up about toxic masculinity and the stigma of mental health. Lizzie Manno, Billboard, "Matt Maltese: The Apocalyptic British Singer-Songwriter That America Desperately Needs," 10 July 2018 The biggest thing is increased education and taking out the stigma of mental illness, Barakat said. Karen Pilarski, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Stigma of suicide: Mom of teen found by former Wauwatosa alderman speaks out," 27 June 2018 Christina Pirello of South Philadelphia, who’s been a vegetarian and a vegan for 30 years, has written seven cookbooks and published works about the stigma of veganism. Anna Orso,, "This is what happens when a popular West Philly taco joint goes full vegan," 27 June 2018 Along with Kate and Prince Harry, William has championed breaking the stigma of mental health awareness in recent years. Erin Hill,, "This Is Why We Haven’t Seen Prince William and Kate Middleton at Royal Ascot This Week," 21 June 2018 That sort of reaction, casting blame -- however unintentionally -- on survivors who are already struggling with guilt is just one way the stigma of suicide gets perpetuated. Jessica Ravitz, CNN, "The words to say -- and not to say -- about suicide," 9 June 2018 Foundation representatives heard personal stories from community members about changing the stigma of the disease by openly discussing it among themselves. Lisa Maria Garza,, "Eatonville, hoping to be 'trendsetter,' competes for $25K national health prize," 6 June 2018 The social stigma of having body hair can make many women, including myself, feel ashamed or dirty. Talia Abbas, SELF, "I Grew Up Waxing My Arm Hair, But I've Given It Up for Good," 6 June 2018 An emerging body of research has begun to highlight the negative impact that weight stigma and discrimination has on weight loss. Kevin Klatt, SELF, "Why Weight Loss Diets Fail," 26 June 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

17 Oct 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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