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Latin stigmat-, stigma mark, brand, from Greek, from stizein to tattoo — more at stick


  • 1 a archaic : a scar left by a hot iron : brand
b : a mark of shame or discredit : stain <bore the stigma of cowardice>
c : an identifying mark or characteristic; specifically : a specific diagnostic sign of a disease
  • 2 a stigmata plural : bodily marks or pains resembling the wounds of the crucified Jesus and sometimes accompanying religious ecstasy
b : petechia
  • 3 a : a small spot, scar, or opening on a plant or animal
b : the usually apical part of the pistil of a flower which receives the pollen grains and on which they germinate


A badge of shame, also a symbol of shame, mark of shame, or simply a stigma, is typically a distinctive symbol required to be worn by a specific group or an individual for the purpose of public humiliation or persecution. Under the Poor Law Act of 1697, paupers in receipt of parish relief were required to wear a badge of blue or red cloth on the shoulder of the right sleeve in an open and visible manner, in order to make life more humiliating for the poor.

The yellow badge that Jews were required to wear in parts of Europe during the Middle Ages, and later in Nazi Germany and German–occupied Europe, was intended to be a badge of shame. The term may also refer to other identifying marks that are associated with shame. The biblical "Mark of Cain" can be interpreted as synonymous with a badge of shame.The term is also used metaphorically, especially in a pejorative sense, to characterize something associated with a person or group as shameful.