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From French microcosme, from Latin microcosmus, from Ancient Greek μικρός (mikrós, small) + κόσμος (kósmos, world); micro- +‎ -cosm



microcosm (plural microcosms)

  1. Human nature or the human body as representative of the wider universe; man considered as a miniature counterpart of divine or universal nature. [from 15th c.]
    • 1972, Rolf Soellner, Shakespeare's Patterns of Self-Knowledge, Chapter 3: Microcosm and Macrocosm: Framing The Picture of Man, page 43:
      The Christian humanists were emphatic in their demand that a man who wishes to understand himself must realize that he is a little world that reflects on a smaller scale the larger world of the universe. [] On the other hand, the whole idea of man as a microcosm was questioned by those who were not in sympathy with the Christian humanists.
  2. (obsolete) The human body; a person. [17th-19th c.]
  3. A smaller system which is seen as representative of a larger one. [from 17th c.]
    • 1999, Barry McIntyre, The Guardian, 16 Dec 1999:
      ‘In a sense, the problems experienced at Bristol are like a microcosm of what is happening in the NHS - experienced surgeons battling against difficult circumstances, with inadequate resources and in a culture where the finding of scapegoats appears to be put before the finding of solutions.’
    • 2011 October 1, Phil Dawkes, “Sunderland 2 - 2 West Brom”, in BBC Sport[1]:
      Steve Bruce's side have swung from highs to lows in what has been at best a wildly inconsistent start to the season. They experienced a microcosm of this within the opening 45 minutes at the Stadium of Light.
  4. (ecology) A small natural ecosystem; an artificial ecosystem set up as an experimental model. [from 19th c.]
    • 2009, Jerry C. Smrchek, Maurice G. Zeeman, Chapter 3: Assessing Risks to Ecological Systems from Chemicals, Peter P. Calow (editor), Handbook of Environmental Risk Assessment and Management, page 53:
      The method is relatively labour intensive (24-30 microcosms are run) and more difficult to interpret when compared with other microcosm methods (Shannon et al. 1986; Cairns & Cherry 1993).





Alternative forms[edit]


Borrowed from French microcosme.


microcosm n (plural (rare) microcosmuri)

  1. microcosm