Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A noxious atmosphere or influence: "The family affection, the family expectations, seemed to permeate the atmosphere . . . like a coiling miasma” ( Louis Auchincloss).
  • n. A poisonous atmosphere formerly thought to rise from swamps and putrid matter and cause disease.
  • n. A thick vaporous atmosphere or emanation: wreathed in a miasma of cigarette smoke.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A noxious atmosphere or influence.
  • n. A noxious atmosphere or emanation once thought to originate from swamps and waste to cause disease.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. Infectious particles or germs floating in the air; air made noxious by the presence of such particles or germs; noxious effluvia; malaria.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. The emanations or effluvia arising from the ground and floating in the atmosphere, considered to be infectious or otherwise injurious to health; noxious emanations; malaria. Also called aërial poison.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. unhealthy vapors rising from the ground or other sources
  • n. an unwholesome atmosphere

Etymologies

Greek, pollution, stain, from miainein, to pollute.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
First attested in 1665. From Ancient Greek μίασμα (miasma) "stain, pollution". (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Again, exposition; but a key thing to consider: the Greek concept of miasma is at play here.

    More on Prologues

  • I find the best way to address this miasma is with a high-end programmable universal remote.

    Controlling the Living Room - Bits Blog - NYTimes.com

  • Micael Ewans, The Everyman Library, 1996), miasma is defined as: "Pollution; the word embraces both literal dirt and what we would call psychic pollution incurred by breaches of taboo, e.e. bloodshed."

    Archive 2006-02-01

  • It is impossible to have such an awful sewer of iniquity sending up its miasma, which is wafted by the winds north, south, east, and west, without the whole land being affected by it.

    The Wedding Ring A Series of Discourses for Husbands and Wives and Those Contemplating Matrimony

  • In areas where there are monsters milling about, a dark vortex -- known as the miasma stream -- needs to be sealed to prevent more monsters from appearing.

    GameSpot's News, Screenshots, Movies, Reviews, Previews, Downloads, and Features

  • Actually I think there is scope here for investigating nomology as a non-scientific sense of possibility, investigating the way beliefs in Natural, Social or Divine order might also have functioned (and might still do) to construct "laws of reality" -- looking at the ancient concept of "miasma" as a breaching of those laws, for example, and a breaching that is integral to the narratives of Greek Tragedy.

    A Follow Up

  • Doubtful that communicable diseases spread via "miasma"; that is, through the inhalation of "bad" air -- yet faced with a scientific community still skeptical of modern germ theory and pathology -- John Snow first proposed the idea that cholera was spread by a waterborne pathogen in 1849.

    Lapham's Quarterly: A Bilious Situation

  • It was the first time a city had grown so big, and while it had a rudimentary idea of a public health system, this system was based on the "miasma" theory of disease: that illness was the result of smelling bad smells.

    Boing Boing: November 26, 2006 - December 2, 2006 Archives

  • The idea of the "miasma", the metaphoric association of morality with dirt, disease, infection, an "evil influence", was with us even in the supposedly more enlightened secular field of medicine, right up until micro-biology made it obsolete.

    The Stain of Sin

  • Given that the notion of being morally unclean goes back at least to the Hittites, and that the Greeks had their own version in the shape of "miasma", I smell a root metaphor here, one shared by polytheist and monotheist cultures alike.

    The Stain of Sin

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  • "He had an unexpected sense that this Land might offer him some spell with which he could conjure away his impotence, some rebirth to which he could cling even after he regained consciousness, after the Land and all its insane implications faded into the miasma of half-remembered dreams."

    Lord Foul's Bane

    July 29, 2012

  • Labor hides itself in every mode and form... it keeps the cow out of the garden, the rain out of the library, the miasma out of the town.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Perpetual Forces"

    July 24, 2011

  • Myasthma

    September 3, 2009

  • For some reason, this word reminds of smegma. :P

    August 24, 2008

  • ...endangered by serpents, savages, tigers, poisonous miasmas, with all the other common perils incident to wandering in the heart of unknown regions.

    - Melville, Moby-Dick, ch. 45

    July 25, 2008

  • That's what I always think when I see this word!

    July 22, 2008

  • HA!!

    July 17, 2008

  • "Seamus, why are ya weezin'?"

    "Ach, it's miasma."

    July 17, 2008

  • I object to mia part of it. No syllable of mine should ever be constrained to be a constituent part of such an ugly-smelling word, ugh. Mia smells like roses.

    July 17, 2008

  • I never see this word without thinking "fetid" in front of it.

    July 16, 2008

  • "It's miasma," he said breathlessly.

    January 14, 2008

  • The plural is listed as mismata.

    July 29, 2007