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Late Middle English, from Latin barbarus (foreigner, savage), from Ancient Greek βάρβαρος (bárbaros, foreign, strange).


  • IPA(key): /ˈbɑː(ɹ)bəɹəs/


barbarous (comparative more barbarous, superlative most barbarous)

  1. (said of language) Not classical or pure.
    • 1880, Charles Wells, “Introduction to the second edition”, in James Redhouse, Redhouse's Turkish Dictionary, page vii:
      The original Turkish tongue was somewhat barbarous, but extremely forcible and concise when spoken.
  2. uncivilized, uncultured
    • 1801, Isaac Watts, The improvement of the mind, or A supplement to the art of logic:
      It is the remark of an ingenious writer, should a barbarous Indian, who had never seen a palace or a ship, view their separate and disjointed parts, and observe the pillars, doors, windows, cornices and turrets of the one, or the prow and stern, the ribs and masts, the ropes and shrouds, the sails and tackle of the other, he would be able to form but a very lame and dark idea of either of those excellent and useful inventions.
    • 1923, Walter de la Mare, Seaton's Aunt
      I felt vaguely he was a sneak, and remained quite unmollified by advances on his side, which, in a boy's barbarous fashion, unless it suited me to be magnanimous, I haughtily ignored.
  3. Like a barbarian, especially in sound; noisy, dissonant.
    I did but prompt the age to quit their cloggs
    By the known rules of antient libertie,
    When strait a barbarous noise environs me
    Of Owles and Cuckoes, Asses, Apes and Doggs - I did but prompt the age to quit their cloggs, John Milton (1673)

Derived terms[edit]

Related terms[edit]


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