Fun Etymology Tuesday – milieu

Another Tuesday, and as always, here is your Fun Etymology!

Today, we’re continuing on another word that has to do with the environment: today’s word is milieu!

A somewhat unusual word in English today (listed by the OED as being used somewhere between 1 to 10 times per million words in typical modern English usage), this word was borrowed in around the mid 19th century from French milieu.

In French, it means middle, medium, or mean, meaning literally middle place. The French word can really be divided into two:

mi-, from Latin medius, from the PIE root *medhyo-, meaning middle


lieu, meaning place (which, of course, you also find in English as a separate noun).

Interestingly, many of the other Germanic languages (including the Scandinavian languages, German and Dutch), have also borrowed this word from French – but in each, it seems to have taken the approximate meaning of the English word environment.

And that’s our FunEty!

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