If something has a negative association attached to it, call this a stigma. Bed-wetting can lead to a social stigma for a six-year-old, while chewing tobacco might have the same effect for a sixty-year-old.

Stigma, from the Greek word of the same spelling meaning "mark, puncture," came into English through Latin to mean a mark burned into the skin to signify disgrace. It did not take long for stigma to be used figuratively, as it is commonly used today, for the negative stereotype or reputation attached to something. If a politician is caught taking bribes, she might resign because of the stigma.

Definitions of stigma
  1. noun
    a symbol of disgrace or infamy
    synonyms: brand, mark, stain
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    a mark against a person for misconduct or failure; usually given in school or armed forces
    bar sinister, bend sinister
    a mark of bastardy; lines from top right to bottom left
    cloven foot, cloven hoof
    the mark of Satan
    type of:
    an arbitrary sign (written or printed) that has acquired a conventional significance
  2. noun
    a skin lesion that is a diagnostic sign of some disease
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    type of:
    blemish, defect, mar
    a mark or flaw that spoils the appearance of something (especially on a person's body)
  3. noun
    the apical end of the style where deposited pollen enters the pistil
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    type of:
    reproductive structure
    the parts of a plant involved in its reproduction
  4. noun
    an external tracheal aperture in a terrestrial arthropod
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    type of:
    a breathing orifice
Word Family

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