A medium (plural media - it is directly a Latin word meaning "the one in the middle", although mediums is also sometimes used) is a carrier of something -- in the most popular sense, of information, mostly human ideas. Depending on the actual characteristics of the medium, it provides transmission or storage of information or both.

For example:

By metonymy, the industries which produce news and entertainment content for the mass media are often called "the media" (in much the same way the newspaper industry is called "the press"). In the late 20th century it became commonplace for this usage to be construed as singular ("The media is...") rather than the traditional plural.

Marshall McLuhan was famous for saying (among other things), "The medium is the message."

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Medium is also the term used for an individual who claims the ability to receive messages from spirits, ghosts, or other discorporate entities, or claims that they can channel such entities (that is, speak or write with the voice of these entities rather than in their own voice). While many believe that such individuals are either self deluded or are simply charlatans, popular mediums often have many followers who believe strongly in their purported abilities. Examples of popular modern-day mediums are Sylvia Brown and John Edward.

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Medium also refers to an average or mean in a range of sizes or conditions. Usually, the term is used when there are only a few different sizes in the range, rather than many. For example, items such as drinks at a fast food restaurant might come in three sizes: Small, Medium, and Large.

A footnote: the peculiarities of the English language, and its redundant use of the same words for different things, allows English speakers to make such statements as "Small medium at large!" that are both comprehensible and mildly amusing.

copyright 2004