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June 22, 2021

Word of the Day: Miasma

2 CQ

Word of the Day : June 22, 2021

miasma \mye-AZ-muh\ noun


1 : a vaporous exhalation formerly believed to cause disease; also : a heavy vaporous emanation or atmosphere

2 : an influence or atmosphere that tends to deplete or corrupt; also : an atmosphere that obscures : fog

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.

Aired June 22, 2021

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