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See also: philistine


Alternative forms[edit]

  • philistine (the adjective and noun senses pertaining to lack of appreciation of culture)


From Late Latin Philistinus, from Late Ancient Greek Φυλιστῖνοι (Phulistînoi), from Hebrew פְּלִשְׁתִּים(p'lishtím), from פְּלֶשֶׁת(p'léshet, Philistia).

The sense relating to lack of education and culture was introduced to English by Thomas Carlyle and greatly popularised by Matthew Arnold. It is derived from German student use of the term Philister to refer to the burghers of the town. This apparently derived from the use of the biblical text "the Philistines be upon you, Samson" in a memorial service for a Jena university student who died as the result of a town and gown dispute in 1693.


  • (UK) IPA(key): /ˈfɪl.ɪ.staɪn/
  • (US) IPA(key): /ˈfɪl.ɪ.staɪn/, /ˈfɪl.ə.stin/, /fɪˈlɪ.stin/
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Philistine (plural Philistines)

  1. (usually capitalized) A person from ancient Philistia.
    • Then the lords of the Philistines gathered them together for to offer a great sacrifice unto Dagon their god, and to rejoice;
    • 1898, Winston Churchill, chapter 2, in The Celebrity:
      Sunning himself on the board steps, I saw for the first time Mr. Farquhar Fenelon Cooke. He was dressed out in broad gaiters and bright tweeds, like an English tourist, and his face might have belonged to Dagon, idol of the Philistines.
  2. (usually uncapitalized) A person who lacks appreciation of art or culture.
    It is Shakespearean, you Philistine!
    • 1843 Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present, book 2, ch. 4, Abbot Hugo
      what could poor old Abbot Hugo do? A frail old man; and the Philistines were upon him, – that is to say, the Hebrews.
    • 2005, Plato, Sophist. Translation by Lesley Brown. 259d.
      trying to separate everything from everything else is not just poor taste but is the mark of a total philistine and someone with no feeling for philosophy.

Related terms[edit]



Philistine (comparative more Philistine, superlative most Philistine)

  1. Of or pertaining to the ancient Philistines.
  2. Lacking appreciation of culture; also philistine.
    • 1948, 18th Century England, in LIFE, page 124,
      Walpole, moreover, left England not only more corrupt than he found it, but crasser and more Philistine.
    • 1991, Nick Doll, Canoeist's Guide to the North East[1], page 25:
      Visitors to the area are strongly recommended to have a look around the castle, for even the most Philistine of wild water canoeists cannot fail to be impressed by the enormous armoury, fine paintings and wonderful furnishings that seem to outclass all other museums and castles in the North East.
    • 2002, Louis Auchincloss, The Heiress, in Manhattan Monologues, page 33,
      Miles was taken seriously by the great dames of Manhattan society and was not scorned by even the most Philistine of their husbands.