n. pl. me·di·a(-dē-ə) or me·di·ums
1. Something, such as an intermediate course of action, that occupies a position or represents a condition midway between extremes.
a. A substance that propagates energy or signals through space via changes in its own state: Air acts as a medium for the transmission of sound waves.
b. The sparsely distributed gas and dust subsisting in the space between stars.
3. An agency by which something is accomplished, conveyed, or transferred: The train was the usual medium of transportation in those days.
4. pl. media Usage Problem
a. A means of mass communication, such as newspapers, magazines, radio, or television.
b. media (used with a sing. or pl. verb) The group of journalists and others who constitute the communications industry and profession.
5. pl. media Computers Any of various kinds of storage devices, such as hard drives or digital audiotape.
6. pl. mediums A person thought to have the power to communicate with the spirits of the dead or with agents of another world or dimension. Also called psychic.
7. pl. media
a. A surrounding environment in which something functions and thrives.
b. The substance in which a specific organism lives and thrives.
c. A culture medium.
a. A specific kind of artistic technique or means of expression as determined by the materials used or the creative methods involved: the medium of lithography.
b. The materials used in a specific artistic technique: oils as a medium.
9. A solvent with which paint is thinned to the proper consistency.
10. Chemistry A filtering substance, such as filter paper.
Occurring or being between two degrees, amounts, or quantities; intermediate: ordered a medium coffee. See Synonyms at average.
[Latin, from neuter of medius, middle; see medhyo- in the Appendix of Indo-European roots.]
Usage Note: The etymologically plural form media is sometimes used as a singular to refer to a particular means of communication, as in The internet is the most exciting new media since television. Many people regard this usage as incorrect. In our 2001 survey, 91 percent of the Usage Panel rejected this usage in the example just quoted. In such contexts the singular medium is acceptable. • Media also occurs with the definite article as a collective term that refers to the communities and institutions behind the various forms of communication. In this sense, the media means something like “the press.” Like other collective nouns, it may take a singular or plural verb depending on the intended meaning. If the point is to emphasize the multifaceted nature of the press, a plural verb may be more appropriate: The media have covered the trial in a variety of formats. Quite frequently, however, media stands as a singular noun for the aggregate of journalists and broadcasters: The media has not shown much interest in covering the trial. All things being equal, the Usage Panel has a decided preference for the plural use in these sentences, with 91 percent accepting the variety of formats sentence, and only 38 accepting the covering the trial sentence in 2001. This suggests that many people still think of media predominantly as a plural form, and that it will be some time before the singular use of media begins to crowd out the plural use in the manner of similar Latin plurals, such as agenda and data. • Inconveniently, the singular medium cannot be used as a collective noun for the press. Sentences like No medium has shown much interest in covering the trial are not standard and may be viewed as nonsensical.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2018 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
Indo-European & Semitic Roots Appendices
Thousands of entries in the dictionary include etymologies that trace their origins back to reconstructed proto-languages. You can obtain more information about these forms in our online appendices:
The Indo-European appendix covers nearly half of the Indo-European roots that have left their mark on English words. A more complete treatment of Indo-European roots and the English words derived from them is available in our Dictionary of Indo-European Roots.