bar sinister

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bar sinister (usually uncountable, plural bars sinister)

  1. (heraldry, considered nonstandard) A bend sinister or baton sinister in a coat of arms.
    • 1825, Sir Walter Scott, chapter 24, in The Talisman:
      "A king's son, though with the bar sinister on his shield, is at least a match for this marmoset of a marquis."
    • 1906, Arthur Quiller-Couch, chapter 1, in Sir John Constantine:
      At any rate no bar sinister appeared on the imperial escutcheon.
    • 2001 May 7, "Obituary: Henry Lumley-Savile," The Independent (UK) (retrieved 4 April 2014):
      They were descended from the Earls of Halifax and Scarbrough but, as the bar sinister in the Savile coat of arms suggests, illegitimately.
  2. (idiomatic, euphemistic) The state or characteristic of having been born out of wedlock; illegitimacy; bastardy.
    • 1900, Charles W. Chesnutt, chapter 16, in The House Behind The Cedars:
      He was not influenced by sordid considerations. . . . Had she been merely of illegitimate birth, he would have overlooked the bar sinister.
    • 1912, Jack London, chapter 8, in A Son Of The Sun:
      Parlay's a full-blooded Frenchman. . . . About a hundred miserable Paumotans lived on the island. He married the queen—native fashion. . . . Now before the queen died she gave birth to a girl. . . . She was educated like a princess, and she accepted herself in much the same way. Also, she thought she was all-white, and never dreamed of a bar sinister.
    • 1936 Oct. 26, "Science: Smithsonian's Year," Time (retrieved 27 March 2014):
      James Smithson was the illegitimate son of the first Duke of Northumberland, third creation. His mother was a lineal descendant of Henry VII. Despite so much blue blood, the bar sinister seared James Smithson all his life.
  3. (idiomatic, by extension) A state or characteristic which is dishonorable or shameful; a stigma.
    • 1863 Oct. 3, "A Rumor of Recognition", New York Times (retrieved 4 April 2014):
      Europe is troubled with sensational rumors as well as our own country. Among the most recent was one prevailing at Paris that Maximilian I, Emperor elect of Mexico, had recognized the independence of the Confederate States. But this rumor was pronounced improbable from the fact that Maximilian had not yet been formally offered the crown by the deputation from Mexico charged with the duty of tendering it. This does seem a bar sinister to the report that has doubtless ere this given much joy in Dixie.
    • 2013 Sep. 13, Dr. Yogendra Yadav, "Present Generation and Mahatma Gandhi, Peace and Collaborative Development Network (retrieved 4 April 2014):
      Then there is untouchability. . . . There are thousands of men and women like me who cling to Hinduism; because they believe that there is in it the amplest scope for mental, moral and spiritual expansion. This bar sinister put upon nearly sixty million human beings is a standing demonstration against that claim. Men like me feel that untouchability is no integral part of Hinduism. It is an excrescence.