Word of the Day : September 20, 2018


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 13th century.


"In researching my second film, Peggy Guggenheim: Art Addict, I learned just how much independence and bravery it took for Guggenheim to step away from her very traditional roots and move at the age of 20 to Paris, where she … became part of the milieu of the Surrealist artists, and ultimately set out on the path to becoming a world famous patron." — Lisa Vreeland, Town & Country, March 2018

"Critics have called [Nicole] Holofcener 'the female Woody Allen,' noting that the two directors, both Jewish, explore a milieu disproportionately populated by writers, artists, and shrinks." — Ariel Levy, The New Yorker, 6 Aug. 2018

Word Family Quiz

What relative of milieu can mean "ordinary" or "so-so"?



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