Word of the Day : April 18, 2013


noun meel-YOO


: the physical or social setting in which something occurs or develops : environment

Did You Know?

The etymology of "milieu" comes down to "mi" and "lieu." English speakers learned the word (and borrowed both its spelling and meaning) from French. The modern French term comes from two much older French forms, "mi," meaning "middle," and "lieu," meaning "place." Like so many terms in the Romance languages, those Old French forms can ultimately be traced to Latin; "mi" is an offspring of Latin "medius"(meaning "middle") and "lieu" is a derivative of "locus" (meaning "place"). English speakers have used "milieu" for the environment or setting of something since at least the mid-1800s, but other "lieu" descendants are much older. We've used both "lieu" itself (meaning "place" or "stead," as in "in lieu of") and "lieutenant" since the 14th century.


The quiet suburban neighborhood was within walking distance of the elementary school and provided the perfect milieu for raising a family.

"Setting his shows in a theatrical milieu, he provides characters with huge egos and over-dramatic desires and passions." - From a theater review by Jay Handelman in the Sarasota Herald Tribune (Florida), March 31, 2013

Word Family Quiz

What relative of "milieu" can mean "ordinary" or "so-so"? The answer is …


More Words of the Day

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!