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

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 Is there a corollary for men, a genre of self-help books aimed at helping men cope with the stigma of their living-alone status? Ashley Fetters, Curbed, "Living alone and liking it," 20 June 2018 There is the taint of stigma and a reticence to talk openly about this kind of reproductive loss. Tara Shafer, Redbook, "I Lost a Baby at 33 Weeks — Now I'm Fighting to Spare Others the Same Pain," 19 June 2018 Gould says the company aimed to eliminate the smell and social stigma of cigarettes and be healthier. CBS News, "Teens are hooked on Juul, but a top exec insists that was never the company's intention," 14 June 2018 Visibility for periods is crucial to getting rid of menstrual stigma and ensuring a more equal and feminist world. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "The New IHOP Logo Looks Like a Tampon Ad and People Are Into It," 11 June 2018 Her goal is to swap stigma and the many remnants of trauma—generational, cultural, environmental, institutional—with healthy coping mechanisms, while normalizing wellness work among groups who arguably need it the most. Martine Thompson, Bon Appetit, "Going to Bed with Emilia Ortiz," 29 May 2018 Kudos to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex for using their platform to help break the barrier of stigma and shame., "Meghan Markle Has Championed Menstrual Equity — Here's Why You Should Too," 21 May 2018 Working with local youth, Wood and his students created video public service announcements to address HIV stigma and change societal attitudes about the disease. Mark Rudin, idahostatesman, "Arts and science together: Research plays vital role in Idaho’s cultural world | Idaho Statesman," 27 Apr. 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

3 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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Comments on stigma

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