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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

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A Word A Day — milieu

Good morning Netizens...

April 18, 2013

Word of the Day

  • milieu
  • audio pronunciation
  • \meel-YOO\


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

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


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.

From Merriam-Webster Online at



Spokesman-Review readers blog about news and issues in Spokane written by Dave Laird.