In the Middle Ages, when the method of writing texts and manuscripts changed and the use of feather-pens was intoduced, the letters of both the Latin and the Greek alphabet changed. Non-capitalized letters were introduced for the first time and later different forms of both the capital and non-capitalized letters started to emerge. Today we might call these hands.

In Medieval Greek the prevailing form of writing in manuscripts and texts became a type of a semi-cursive writing, in which letters merged with one another to create a new form out of the two old ones (ligurates). An example in the Latin alphabet is the evolution of the sign '&' from the Latin word 'et' "and"

One of these new signs in Greek was a combination of the letters sigma (in its final form) and tau. This new sign was named after its two "parent" letters: stigma.

Gradually the sign stigma became the most common of all these signs and people began to use the word 'stigma' as a generic term for any kind of sign. In this way the plural of the word stigma - 'stigmata', which originally meant only 'signs', became almost unintentionally the most prevalent name for the wounds of Jesus when he was laid down from the cross.

The word 'stigma' itself (in the singular) began over time to have a negative connotation and 'signs' began to mean 'prejudices'.

This is the explanation of the stigma of the word 'stigma'.

Stig"ma (?), n.; pl. E. Stigmas (#), L. Stigmata (#). [L., a mark, a brand, from Gr. , , the prick or mark of a pointed instrument, a spot, mark, from to prick, to brand. See Stick, v. t.]


A mark made with a burning iron; a brand.


Any mark of infamy or disgrace; sign of moral blemish; stain or reproach caused by dishonorable conduct; reproachful characterization.

The blackest stigma that can be fastened upon him. Bp. Hall.

All such slaughters were from thence called Bartelmies, simply in a perpetual stigma of that butchery. Sir G. Buck.

3. Bot.

That part of a pistil which has no epidermis, and is fitted to receive the pollen. It is usually the terminal portion, and is commonly somewhat glutinous or viscid. See Illust. of Stamen and of Flower.

4. Anat.

A small spot, mark, scar, or a minute hole; -- applied especially to a spot on the outer surface of a Graafian follicle, and to spots of intercellular substance in scaly epithelium, or to minute holes in such spots.

5. Pathol.

A red speck upon the skin, produced either by the extravasation of blood, as in the bloody sweat characteristic of certain varieties of religious ecstasy, or by capillary congestion, as in the case of drunkards.

6. Zool. (a)

One of the external openings of the tracheae of insects, myriapods, and other arthropods; a spiracle.


One of the apertures of the pulmonary sacs of arachnids. See Illust. of Scorpion.


One of the apertures of the gill of an ascidian, and of Amphioxus.

7. Geom.

A point so connected by any law whatever with another point, called an index, that as the index moves in any manner in a plane the first point or stigma moves in a determinate way in the same plane.

8. pl. R. C. Ch.

Marks believed to have been supernaturally impressed upon the bodies of certain persons in imitation of the wounds on the crucified body of Christ. See def. 5, above.


© Webster 1913.

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