Definition of barbarian in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˌbärˈberēən/


1(In ancient times) a member of a community or tribe not belonging to one of the great civilizations (Greek, Roman, Christian).
Example sentences
  • It was arrogant pretension of the ancient Greeks to imagine that barbarians were slaves by nature.
  • Hadrian, we are informed by his fourth-century biographer, built his wall to divide the Romans from the barbarians.
  • Although the Roman aristocrats despised the barbarians, many also believed that they could use them to their own purposes.
1.1An uncultured or brutish person.
Example sentences
  • It has become very fashionable in the middle reaches of government to beat up on the Americans as being uncultured barbarians.
  • The arrogant barbarians were again shown that they could never defeat The Chosen People.
  • Texans were more or less thought of as yahoo barbarians somewhere between the Beverly Hillbillies and Deliverance.
savage, heathen, brute, beast, wild man/woman;
ruffian, thug, lout, vandal, boor, hoodlum, hooligan, Neanderthal, troglodyte;
informal roughneck, lowlife, knuckle-dragger


1Relating to ancient barbarians: barbarian invasions barbarian peoples
More example sentences
  • But that attaches all of the barbarian interlude to ancient history, which is counter to our usual notions.
  • And maybe that date will be viewed in future centuries as the beginning of the great barbarian invasions.
  • This promising line of thought takes us back to the barbarian invasions that overwhelmed Rome in the 5th century.
1.1Uncultured; brutish.
Example sentences
  • The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.
  • Terminal illness makes a fantastic, fun-filled irreverent backdrop for black comedy, exploding with comments on humankind's barbarian invasion of the planet.
  • The supervisory board of the Bulgarian National Bank was a straight jacket for the elite, which drained the financial system in a pagan and barbarian way.
savage, uncivilized, barbaric, primitive, heathen, vulgar, wild, brutish, Neanderthal


Middle English (as an adjective used depreciatively to denote a person with different speech and customs): from Old French barbarien, from barbare, or from Latin barbarus (see barbarous).

  • The ancient Greeks had a high opinion of themselves and a correspondingly low one of other peoples. They called everyone who did not speak Greek barbaros or ‘foreign’, which is where we get barbarian and related words barbaric (Late Middle English), barbarity (late 17th century), and barbarous (early 16th century). The word barbaros originally imitated the unintelligible language of foreigners, which to the Greeks just sounded like ba, ba, ba.

Words that rhyme with barbarian

agrarian, antiquarian, apiarian, Aquarian, Arian, Aryan, authoritarian, Bavarian, Bulgarian, Caesarean (US Cesarean), centenarian, communitarian, contrarian, Darien, disciplinarian, egalitarian, equalitarian, establishmentarian, fruitarian, Gibraltarian, grammarian, Hanoverian, humanitarian, Hungarian, latitudinarian, libertarian, librarian, majoritarian, millenarian, necessarian, necessitarian, nonagenarian, octogenarian, ovarian, Parian, parliamentarian, planarian, predestinarian, prelapsarian, proletarian, quadragenarian, quinquagenarian, quodlibetarian, Rastafarian, riparian, rosarian, Rotarian, sabbatarian, Sagittarian, sanitarian, Sauveterrian, sectarian, seminarian, septuagenarian, sexagenarian, topiarian, totalitarian, Trinitarian, ubiquitarian, Unitarian, utilitarian, valetudinarian, vegetarian, veterinarian, vulgarian

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: bar·bar·i·an

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