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

That has contributed to a stigma and shaded doctors' views, said Keira Sumimoto, an Irvine, California, mother who used marijuana briefly for medical reasons while pregnant and breastfeeding. Fox News, "Marijuana detected in mother's breastmilk days after pot use, study finds," 27 Aug. 2018 Your film addresses issues specific to Moreangels’s culture in Zimbabwe, such as a strong stigma against women being away from the home. Gabby Salazar, National Geographic, "Where Women Must Defy the Odds to Become Scientists," 12 June 2018 His ascent from three uneven seasons after signing puts him at least on a trajectory to break a 10-year hoodoo for the organization and overcome a stigma that goes far beyond the Warehouse. Jon Meoli,, "As draft approaches, breakout Orioles prospect Ryan McKenna becomes rare prep outfielder to emerge," 2 June 2018 Chang is easily qualified, but the move also helps NEA — one of venture capital’s biggest firms — remove a particular stigma: NEA has never before had a woman in the senior investing rank at the firm. Theodore Schleifer, Recode, "Venture capital firms are running to hire their first female general partners," 23 May 2018 While Phoenix police has not enforced against the program — research shows many in law enforcement support such programs — a longstanding stigma has hindered volunteer efforts to set up on street corners and in parking lots. Jason Pohl, azcentral, "Arizona needle-exchange bill dies in legislature after losing momentum in Senate," 7 May 2018 Health experts say this could add to the stigma around HIV. Julia Belluz, Vox, "Grindr is revealing its users’ HIV status to third-party companies," 2 Apr. 2018 But media has also created a sense of dissatisfaction due to the stigmas often half-concealed. Hanna Howard, Teen Vogue, "Meet 7 Regeneron Science Talent Search Finalists," 9 Mar. 2018 But marijuana still carries a stigma that surfaces with the use of old slang like pot and weed. Gary Robbins, Anchorage Daily News, "Marijuana industry gets blunt: Stop using the word ‘pot’," 17 Jan. 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

28 Nov 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

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