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barbarianize

[ bahr-bair-ee-uh-nahyz ]
/ bɑrˈbɛər i əˌnaɪz /
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verb (used with object), bar·bar·i·an·ized, bar·bar·i·an·iz·ing.

to make barbarian.

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Also especially British, bar·bar·i·an·ise .

Origin of barbarianize

First recorded in 1855–60; barbarian + -ize
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2021

ABOUT THIS WORD

What does barbarianize mean?

To barbarianize something is to make it become crude and uncivilized. To barbarianize someone is to turn them into a barbarian—a person who’s crude and uncivilized.

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.

The related word barbarize means to make someone or something barbarous—uncivilized, crude, or cruel.

Example: The dumbing down of culture barbarianizes us and makes us incapable of civil discourse. 

Where does barbarianize come from?

The first records of the word barbarianize come from the 1850s. The suffix -ize means “to make” or “to convert into.” The base word barbarian 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.

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How is barbarianize used in real life?

Barbarianize is often used negatively, but it can be used in ways intended to be lighthearted or humorous. It is not commonly used.

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