- a non-Greek.
- a person living outside, especially north of, the Roman Empire.
- a person not living in a Christian country or within a Christian civilization.
OTHER WORDS FOR barbarian
Origin of barbarian
synonym study for barbarian
OTHER WORDS FROM barbarianbar·bar·i·an·ism, nounhalf-bar·bar·i·an, adjectivenon·bar·bar·i·an, adjective, noun
Words nearby barbarian
MORE ABOUT BARBARIAN
What does barbarian mean?
The word barbarian is used to refer to a person who’s considered extremely crude and uncivilized.
It can also be used as an adjective meaning crude or uncivilized.
There are several related words that are used in the context of people or things considered uncivilized or cruel, including the adjectives barbaric and barbarous and the nouns barbarism and barbarity.
The term barbarian was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to refer to any foreigner. In ancient and medieval times, it was variously used to refer to non-Greeks, non-Romans, and non-Christians.
The term eventually became associated with a stereotypical image of barbarians as primitive and brutish. For example, movies and comic strips often depict people they call barbarians as dressing in animal skins and carrying simple weapons, like wooden clubs.
Like the word savage, the word barbarian can be very offensive due to its use to dehumanize the people that it’s applied to, especially in a way that calls attention to their otherness or the supposed primitiveness of their culture or customs.
Still, barbarian is often used in an exaggerated way to refer to a person who behaves in a way considered crude or brutish. This use of the word focuses on a person’s crude behavior and is not intended to imply any sense of foreignness. It’s often intended to be lighthearted and humorous.
Example: Boys, please don’t track mud through the house like a bunch of barbarians!
Where does barbarian come from?
The first records of the word barbarian in English come from the 1540s. It ultimately comes from the Greek bárbaros, meaning “non-Greek,” or, more generally, “foreign.”
The Greek bárbaros is related to the Sanskrit barbara, which means “stammering” and was also used to refer to non-Aryans. The ultimate basis of these terms is thought to be an imitation of someone speaking a language that is completely incomprehensible, as if they were just saying the word bar over and over. This origin is indicative of how offensive the word barbarian can be when used in certain ways. Portraying an unfamiliar language as primitive gibberish simply because it’s unfamiliar is offensive in much the same way that calling a person a barbarian can be when it’s meant to dehumanize them due to their differences.
Did you know ... ?
What are some other forms related to barbarian?
- barbarianism (noun)
- barbarianize (verb)
What are some synonyms for barbarian?
What are some words that share a root or word element with barbarian?
What are some words that often get used in discussing barbarian?
How is barbarian used in real life?
Barbarian is almost always used negatively, though the level of negativity varies widely. Historically, it was used as a negative term for foreigners, and it can be offensive when used to dehumanize a person and imply that their culture is primitive.
In 83 AD, an Iron Age army fought a great battle with Roman soldiers in north-east Scotland ⚔️
They were portrayed as naked 'barbarians’ in Roman sources, but they were in fact skilled warriors and craftspeople, with trading contacts across Europe: https://t.co/J6aQlRCugo pic.twitter.com/AgwMXZvHAo
— Dig It! (@DigItScotland) May 10, 2020
The migration of Goths across Europe is often characterised as a barbarian invasion, but the story told here is of families struggling to survive https://t.co/hq7ClrjHpY
— The Economist (@TheEconomist) June 23, 2020
The frat boys in the building next to me are yelling like a bunch of barbarians right now #ItsSunday 😑
— Lauren Elliott (@heyLo_93) February 3, 2014
How to use barbarian in a sentence
In September of 476 AD, the barbarian commander Odoacer forced the teenaged Western Roman emperor Romulus Augustus to resign his office.
Nine different Western Roman emperors had risen and fallen since 455 and most of them had been overthrown by barbarian commanders like Odoacer.
In four cases, the barbarian generals toppled one emperor and delayed appointing another.
It casts one’s opponent as an outsider, perhaps a barbarian, who must be scorned and defied, even if that results, as it did for Leonidas, in self-destruction.This Is the Gun-Loving Right’s Favorite Greek Taunt|James Romm|September 27, 2021|The Daily Beast
Yet it won’t do to merely split a bunch of logs and leave them in a state of splintered entropy like some barbarian.
I wrote my first book listening to the soundtrack to the movie Conan the Barbarian on a loop.
Instead of thinking of a sharp distinction between "Roman" and "barbarian," we should think in terms of economic zones.
What can explain Morris's insistence in continuing to describe whole cultures and societies as "barbarian"?
Lastly, Levy objects to my occasional use, in the past, of the word "barbarian".
Morris has said that “the Arab world as it is today is barbarian.”Of Herrings and Elephants: Benny Morris and "Palestinian Rejectionism"|Daniel Levy|April 16, 2012|DAILY BEAST
Christendom looked astounded upon the spectacle of a barbarian invasion bursting forth from the cellars and garrets of Paris.Madame Roland, Makers of History|John S. C. Abbott
The words, taken in a new acceptation, reveal the charming maladroitness of a northern barbarian kneeling before a Roman beauty.Charles Baudelaire, His Life|Thophile Gautier
But in each case the barbarian was not very far below the surface—any more than he is in an Englishman sometimes.The Cradle of Mankind|W.A. Wigram
He turned angrily on the "barbarian" schools, that would sweep away the past, and create Humanity anew on some arbitrary plan.The Life of Mazzini|Bolton King
Philip has been deemed a mere barbarian, whose victory was certain to be, and was, the death of Grecian liberty.