[ sav-ij ]
See synonyms for savage on
  1. fierce, ferocious, or cruel; untamed: savage beasts.

  2. Offensive. relating to or being a preliterate people or society regarded as uncivilized or primitive.

  1. enraged or furiously angry, as a person.

  2. unpolished; rude: savage manners.

  3. wild or rugged, as country or scenery: savage wilderness.

  4. Archaic. uncultivated; growing wild.

  1. a fierce, brutal, or cruel person.

  2. a rude, boorish person.

  1. Disparaging and Offensive. a member of a preliterate people or society regarded as uncivilized or primitive.

verb (used with object),sav·aged, sav·ag·ing.
  1. to assault and maul by biting, rending, goring, etc.; tear at or mutilate: numerous sheep savaged by dogs.

  2. to attack or criticize thoroughly or remorselessly; excoriate: a play savaged by the critics.

  1. to greatly weaken, damage, or harm: The age of automation and globalization, with companies searching for lower wages overseas, has savaged organized labor.

Origin of savage

First recorded in 1250–1300; Middle English adjective savage, saveage, sauvage, salvage, from Old French sauvage, salvage, savage, Anglo-French sawage, from Medieval Latin salvāticus, for Latin silvāticus, equivalent to silv(a) “woods” + -āticus adjective suffix; noun derivative of the adjective

synonym study For savage

1. See cruel.

word story For savage

English savage is also spelled saveage, sauvage, salvage in Middle English. Middle English also has the spellings Sawage and Suvage for surnames. The Middle English forms come from Old French sauvage, salvage, savage and Anglo-French sawage. The Old French and Anglo-French forms come from Medieval Latin salvāticus, a modification of Latin silvāticus “pertaining to forests or scrubland,” a derivative of the noun silva “woodlands, forest.”
The offensive noun sense “a member of a preliterate people regarded as uncivilized” dates from the second half of the 16th century. As it has been applied to the Indigenous people of the Americas, savage has a pernicious history of dehumanizing Native peoples and justifying their removal from ancestral lands and even their genocide. The word has been used to imply that Indigenous peoples lack the civilized qualities that would qualify them to be stewards of their lands, and to justify their removal and replacement. Further, the connotation that savages are capable of or prone to violence has justified retaliatory or preemptive violence against Indigenous people for hundreds of years.
The general use of the term to mean a “cruel, brutal person” and “rude, uncouth person” (uses that date from the early 17th century) and the use of savage as an adjective to describe flora and fauna are common and inoffensive. However, applying this noun or adjective to a people, especially a people of non-Western or non-European descent, has a painful colonial history and is considered disparaging and offensive.

Other words for savage

Opposites for savage

Other words from savage

  • sav·age·ly, adverb
  • sav·age·ness, noun
  • half-sav·age, adjective
  • half-sav·age·ly, adverb
  • pre·sav·age, adjective
  • qua·si-sav·age, adjective
  • qua·si-sav·age·ly, adverb
  • sem·i·sav·age, adjective
  • un·sav·age, adjective
  • un·sav·age·ly, adverb
  • un·sav·age·ness, noun

Other definitions for Savage (2 of 2)

[ sav-ij ]

  1. Michael Joseph, 1872–1940, New Zealand statesman and labor leader: prime minister 1935–40.

  2. Richard, 1697?–1743, English poet. Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use savage in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for savage (1 of 2)


/ (ˈsævɪdʒ) /

  1. wild; untamed: savage beasts of the jungle

  2. ferocious in temper; vicious: a savage dog

  1. uncivilized; crude: savage behaviour

  2. (of peoples) nonliterate or primitive: a savage tribe

  3. (of terrain) rugged and uncultivated

  4. obsolete far from human habitation

  1. a member of a nonliterate society, esp one regarded as primitive

  2. a crude or uncivilized person

  1. a fierce or vicious person or animal

  1. to criticize violently

  2. to attack ferociously and wound: the dog savaged the child

Origin of savage

C13: from Old French sauvage, from Latin silvāticus belonging to a wood, from silva a wood

Derived forms of savage

  • savagedom, noun
  • savagely, adverb
  • savageness, noun

British Dictionary definitions for Savage (2 of 2)


/ (ˈsævɪdʒ) /

  1. Michael Joseph. 1872-1940, New Zealand statesman; prime minister of New Zealand (1935-40)

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012