Definition of barbarian in English:



  • 1(in ancient times) a member of a people not belonging to one of the great civilizations (Greek, Roman, Christian)

    ‘the city was besieged by the barbarians’
    • ‘That is, it is Moira that determines who shall be slave or master, peasant or warrior, citizen or non-citizen, Greek or barbarian.’
    • ‘Hadrian, we are informed by his fourth-century biographer, built his wall to divide the Romans from the barbarians.’
    • ‘It was predicated on the idea of an inherent superiority of the Greek over the barbarian.’
    • ‘Their background was probably very varied, some perhaps landowners, others military men, Roman or barbarian, who had been invited to take control or seized power.’
    • ‘For the next five millennia McNeill observes a sharp spatial distinction between barbarians and civilized communities.’
    • ‘Raised on the hinge of the Greek and the barbarian (non-Greek) world, he had the amused tolerance of a man who can see and has lived with both sides.’
    • ‘As the barbarians invaded, they often took over the old Roman provincial titles, so that Roman authority continued in a new guise.’
    • ‘Barbarians, or rather some barbarians in the eyes of some Greeks, did not need images at all.’
    • ‘They did not so much beat the barbarians as the mere appearance of Roman legions caused the invaders to withdraw.’
    • ‘The ancient Romans divided people between civilised and barbarian.’
    • ‘It might be because purists realized they were a small group of Roman centurions and the barbarians were at the gates.’
    • ‘Moreover, some of the Greek cities thought they could use the barbarian, or the threat of him, against their enemies.’
    • ‘His main historical significance is his acceleration of the settlement of barbarians on Roman territory.’
    • ‘Although the Roman aristocrats despised the barbarians, many also believed that they could use them to their own purposes.’
    • ‘His decision to build a wall separating Roman Britain from the barbarians beyond symbolised that the empire had stopped growing.’
    • ‘Others were happy to see Philip as a Greek, and as a man who could restore Greece to a position in which it could face the real barbarians, and in particular the Persians.’
    • ‘It was arrogant pretension of the ancient Greeks to imagine that barbarians were slaves by nature.’
    1. 1.1 An uncultured or brutish person.
      ‘you arrogant barbarian!’
      • ‘It has become very fashionable in the middle reaches of government to beat up on the Americans as being uncultured barbarians.’
      • ‘What happens when the barbarians, the grand ignorant, never appear and so cannot be defeated or contained?’
      • ‘The rampant crowds were like ancient Viking barbarians, smoking heavily and taking down alcohol in large gulps.’
      • ‘Northern newspapers, in contrast, condemned Brooks as an unrestrained barbarian who, like the South as a whole, represented brutality and threatened to destroy the fabric of the nation.’
      • ‘Here was someone who was prepared to wave two fingers at those American barbarians who were filling French kids with burgers.’
      • ‘The use to which the wealth is put, and Jahangir's almost flippant attitude toward his riches, activates the notion of the ignorant barbarian.’
      • ‘Wine and bread, because they were created by man, were symbols of cultured living - only barbarians ate wild plants.’
      • ‘For here on, I will consider anyone consorting with these barbarians to be my enemy.’
      • ‘Ever since we'd been kidnapped by the barbarians, she had changed, and it hadn't been subtle.’
      • ‘The arrogant barbarians were again shown that they could never defeat The Chosen People.’
      • ‘From her experience in the east she regarded the Russians as barbarians, unused to the basic norms of civilised life.’
      • ‘All think of him as a cold-hearted, arrogant barbarian, and this story will be the first true view of the hidden soul he carries.’
      • ‘What distinguishes civilized man from a barbarian must be acquired by every individual anew.’
      • ‘People who support capital punishment are often portrayed as barbarians or monsters, but in my opinion locking someone up for life is far more inhumane.’
      • ‘Only barbarians, he argued, would execute a man based upon this quality of testimony.’
      • ‘They usually portray American military personnel as barbarians with no respect for human life.’
      • ‘Texans were more or less thought of as yahoo barbarians somewhere between the Beverly Hillbillies and Deliverance.’
      savage, brute, beast, wild man, wild woman, troglodyte
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  • 1Relating to ancient barbarians.

    ‘barbarian invasions’
    • ‘This promising line of thought takes us back to the barbarian invasions that overwhelmed Rome in the 5th century.’
    • ‘In the face of continuing barbarian invasions, the smaller landowners were driven to seek protection and maintenance from more powerful men in return for which they gave service and obedience.’
    • ‘These remarks record the preeminent level of struggle against the loss of civilization brought on by the invasion of the barbarian hordes of Western Europe.’
    • ‘He explains that, as the screws were tightened upon them, the mass of the population had little or no incentive to resist the barbarian invasions that came with increasing force.’
    • ‘If this is a clash of civilizations, then one of our soldiers has just been murdered by our barbarian enemies.’
    • ‘Manchester United tours are not just a series of football matches but are events which resemble a call for a religious crusade or a barbarian invasion.’
    • ‘In the West, however, Diocletian's system worked for a time, but then fell apart in the face of the barbarian invasions.’
    • ‘Be that as it may, after the barbarian invasion there was no authority to re-introduce gold coinage that would circulate.’
    • ‘The town suffered grievously during the barbarian invasions and it did not recover until the Middle Ages, when it took its present form, that of a fortified medieval settlement round a strong castle.’
    • ‘Torsion catapults continued to be built into the time of the barbarian invasions when they were superseded by a traction artillery piece, the trebuchet.’
    • ‘Positive or negative, all these barbarian invasions are there, and we must live with this.’
    • ‘Arles, once the capital of Roman Gaul, declined after the barbarian invasions and experienced a political and economic revival in the 12 th century.’
    • ‘The early medieval chapter adopts the by-now-commonplace position that the history of Europe after the fall of Rome and the barbarian invasions was one of progress.’
    • ‘Jordanes, who wrote in Constantinople in the 550s, even described the coup of 476 as if it had been a fully-fledged barbarian invasion.’
    • ‘And maybe that date will be viewed in future centuries as the beginning of the great barbarian invasions.’
    • ‘The site adds weight to the theory that Spain was a haven of Roman peace and prosperity during the fourth century, while the rest of the empire suffered political instability and barbarian invasions.’
    • ‘Europe took refuge in a feudal system in the face of increasing barbarian invasion.’
    • ‘A process of urbanization was under way - a process which the Romans had to abandon in the 3rd century under the pressures of barbarian invasion.’
    • ‘In 276 the towns of Gaul were still unwalled when, as a literary source tells us, the worst of the barbarian invasions yet saw the capture of fifty or sixty towns and their retaking by the Romans.’
    • ‘But that attaches all of the barbarian interlude to ancient history, which is counter to our usual notions.’
    atheistic, unbelieving, non-believing, non-theistic, agnostic, sceptical, heretical, faithless, godless, ungodly, unholy, impious, profane, infidel, barbarous, heathen, heathenish, idolatrous, pagan
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    1. 1.1 Uncultured; brutish.
      • ‘In their wild and alien nature, these animals were the embodiment of all that was uncivilized and, therefore, of barbarian irrationality and evil.’
      • ‘The EU, in stern response to today's barbarian terror bombing in Jerusalem, has decided to start giving money again to the Palestinian Authority.’
      • ‘Despite being written for a barbarian reed pipe, Ts'ai Yen's songs can still be sung on Chinese instruments.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘And if we do not do something, these barbarian rodents are bound to take over our lives!’
      • ‘What is the barbarian fascination with airplanes?’
      • ‘A barbarian dictator who stares down the US can lead a region to war, terrorism, and oppression on a global scale.’
      • ‘Today, a message from an Internet café could have confirmed the barbarian incursions were nightmares come true.’
      • ‘But to the mindset of today's European leaders and commentators, America is a barbarian nation intent on world domination.’
      • ‘Terminal illness makes a fantastic, fun-filled irreverent backdrop for black comedy, exploding with comments on humankind's barbarian invasion of the planet.’
      • ‘It is an uneasy opening, as we watch Monroe have to shed his civility and have to regress: his modern nature being slowly eroded by the barbarian surroundings.’
      • ‘We lost several thousand to barbarian attacks.’
      • ‘Roy is a true original, a barbarian living in a modern world, and relentlessly smashing everything in his path.’
      • ‘Democratic processes can do nothing to assuage the homicidal needs of barbarian madmen.’
      • ‘I am shocked and dismayed to learn that our neighbors to the north have government officials who play politics just like ours do down here in the barbarian south.’
      • ‘Suddenly, all the networks want drama again and the barbarian tide of reality tele-vision is in retreat.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘‘[The anti-secession law] is barbarian and invasive behavior,’ Lee said.’
      savage, uncivilized, barbaric, barbarous, primitive, heathen, wild, brutish, neanderthal
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Middle English (as an adjective used in a derogatory way to denote a person with different speech and customs): from Old French barbarien, from barbare, or from Latin barbarus (see barbarous).