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From French microcosme, from Latin microcosmus, from Ancient Greek μικρός (mikrós, small) + κόσμος (kósmos, universe, order); 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.
    • 2019, Li Huang; James Lambert, “Another Arrow for the Quiver: A New Methodology for Multilingual Researchers”, in Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, DOI:10.1080/01434632.2019.1596115, page 5:
      It should come as no surprise to see promotional material and bulletin boards in the department’s languages, though English is also present in the signage of this microcosm of the institution.
  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