miasma

noun

mi·​as·​ma mī-ˈaz-mə How to pronounce miasma (audio)
mē-
plural miasmas also miasmata mī-ˈaz-mə-tə How to pronounce miasma (audio)
mē-
1
: a vaporous exhalation formerly believed to cause disease
also : a heavy vaporous emanation (see emanation sense 2) or atmosphere
a miasma of tobacco smoke
2
: an influence or atmosphere that tends to deplete or corrupt
freed from the miasma of povertySir Arthur Bryant
the enervating miasma of fearThe Times Literary Supplement (London)
also : an atmosphere that obscures : fog
miasmal adjective
miasmatic adjective
miasmic adjective
miasmically adverb

Did you know?

In notes taken during a voyage to South America on the HMS Beagle in the 1830s, Charles Darwin described an illness that he believed was caused by "miasma" emanating from stagnant pools of water. For him, miasma had the same meaning that it did when it first appeared in English in the 1600s: an emanation of a vaporous disease-causing substance. (Miasma comes from Greek miainein, meaning "to pollute.") But while Darwin was at sea, broader applications of miasma were starting to spread. Nowadays, we know germs are the source of infection, so we're more likely to use the newer, more figurative sense of miasma, which refers to something destructive or demoralizing that surrounds or permeates.

Examples of miasma in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web But the fire turned her landscape from muse into miasma. Reis Thebault, Washington Post, 7 Feb. 2024 This miasma of extremism and dysfunction ultimately crescendoed with the advent of Trumpism and the full flower of that authoritarian project. Jason Linkins, The New Republic, 4 Nov. 2023 Puerto Rican Art in the Wake of Hurricane Maria at the Whitney had less to do with Puerto Rican art than with the miasma that’s the politics of statehood. Brian T. Allen, National Review, 21 Dec. 2023 From Hippocrates’ miasma to Persian physician Ibn Sina (Avicenna), the first theories of how disease was transmitted involved vague concepts of bad fumes floating from unsanitary environments into people. Annalisa Merelli, Quartz, 26 Aug. 2022 The fear of contagion — the viral spread of suicide through social groups — hung over the school like a miasma. Sonja Sharp, Los Angeles Times, 30 Nov. 2023 Chinese Communist Party leaders have long sought to mobilize support by citing a miasma of external threats. Chris Buckley, New York Times, 13 Nov. 2023 Yes, though the late Trump-era miasma hovering over a plot driven by kidnappings and murder is pointed. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, 14 Nov. 2023 The miasma could symbolize more than one pandemic, of course. Kate Tuttle, Peoplemag, 13 Sep. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'miasma.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

New Latin, from Greek, defilement, from miainein to pollute

First Known Use

1665, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of miasma was in 1665

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Dictionary Entries Near miasma

Cite this Entry

“Miasma.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/miasma. Accessed 24 Feb. 2024.

Kids Definition

miasma

noun
mi·​as·​ma mī-ˈaz-mə How to pronounce miasma (audio)
mē-
plural miasmas or miasmata -mət-ə How to pronounce miasma (audio)
1
: a vapor from a swamp formerly believed to cause disease
2
: a harmful influence or atmosphere
miasmal adjective
miasmatic adjective

Medical Definition

miasma

noun
mi·​as·​ma mī-ˈaz-mə How to pronounce miasma (audio) mē- How to pronounce miasma (audio)
plural miasmas also miasmata -mət-ə How to pronounce miasma (audio)
: a vaporous exhalation (as of a marshy region or of putrescent matter) formerly believed to cause disease (as malaria)
miasmal adjective
miasmatic adjective
miasmic adjective
Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
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