Definition of barbarian in US English:



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

    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Although the Roman aristocrats despised the barbarians, many also believed that they could use them to their own purposes.’
    • ‘As the barbarians invaded, they often took over the old Roman provincial titles, so that Roman authority continued in a new guise.’
    • ‘For the next five millennia McNeill observes a sharp spatial distinction between barbarians and civilized communities.’
    • ‘It was arrogant pretension of the ancient Greeks to imagine that barbarians were slaves by nature.’
    • ‘It might be because purists realized they were a small group of Roman centurions and the barbarians were at the gates.’
    • ‘His decision to build a wall separating Roman Britain from the barbarians beyond symbolised that the empire had stopped growing.’
    • ‘Moreover, some of the Greek cities thought they could use the barbarian, or the threat of him, against their enemies.’
    • ‘Hadrian, we are informed by his fourth-century biographer, built his wall to divide the Romans from the barbarians.’
    • ‘His main historical significance is his acceleration of the settlement of barbarians on Roman territory.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘That is, it is Moira that determines who shall be slave or master, peasant or warrior, citizen or non-citizen, Greek or barbarian.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The ancient Romans divided people between civilised and barbarian.’
    1. 1.1 An uncultured or brutish person.
      • ‘The arrogant barbarians were again shown that they could never defeat The Chosen People.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Only barbarians, he argued, would execute a man based upon this quality of testimony.’
      • ‘From her experience in the east she regarded the Russians as barbarians, unused to the basic norms of civilised life.’
      • ‘Wine and bread, because they were created by man, were symbols of cultured living - only barbarians ate wild plants.’
      • ‘Ever since we'd been kidnapped by the barbarians, she had changed, and it hadn't been subtle.’
      • ‘What distinguishes civilized man from a barbarian must be acquired by every individual anew.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The use to which the wealth is put, and Jahangir's almost flippant attitude toward his riches, activates the notion of the ignorant barbarian.’
      • ‘It has become very fashionable in the middle reaches of government to beat up on the Americans as being uncultured barbarians.’
      • ‘For here on, I will consider anyone consorting with these barbarians to be my enemy.’
      • ‘What happens when the barbarians, the grand ignorant, never appear and so cannot be defeated or contained?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The rampant crowds were like ancient Viking barbarians, smoking heavily and taking down alcohol in large gulps.’
      • ‘Here was someone who was prepared to wave two fingers at those American barbarians who were filling French kids with burgers.’
      savage, brute, beast, wild man, wild woman, troglodyte
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  • 1Relating to ancient barbarians.

    ‘barbarian invasions’
    ‘barbarian peoples’
    • ‘Europe took refuge in a feudal system in the face of increasing barbarian invasion.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Jordanes, who wrote in Constantinople in the 550s, even described the coup of 476 as if it had been a fully-fledged barbarian invasion.’
    • ‘But that attaches all of the barbarian interlude to ancient history, which is counter to our usual notions.’
    • ‘In the West, however, Diocletian's system worked for a time, but then fell apart in the face of the barbarian invasions.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Positive or negative, all these barbarian invasions are there, and we must live with this.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘And maybe that date will be viewed in future centuries as the beginning of the great barbarian invasions.’
    • ‘Be that as it may, after the barbarian invasion there was no authority to re-introduce gold coinage that would circulate.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Arles, once the capital of Roman Gaul, declined after the barbarian invasions and experienced a political and economic revival in the 12 th century.’
    • ‘If this is a clash of civilizations, then one of our soldiers has just been murdered by our barbarian enemies.’
    • ‘This promising line of thought takes us back to the barbarian invasions that overwhelmed Rome in the 5th century.’
    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.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Despite being written for a barbarian reed pipe, Ts'ai Yen's songs can still be sung on Chinese instruments.’
      • ‘And if we do not do something, these barbarian rodents are bound to take over our lives!’
      • ‘But to the mindset of today's European leaders and commentators, America is a barbarian nation intent on world domination.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Terminal illness makes a fantastic, fun-filled irreverent backdrop for black comedy, exploding with comments on humankind's barbarian invasion of the planet.’
      • ‘‘[The anti-secession law] is barbarian and invasive behavior,’ Lee said.’
      • ‘Suddenly, all the networks want drama again and the barbarian tide of reality tele-vision is in retreat.’
      • ‘We lost several thousand to barbarian attacks.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘In their wild and alien nature, these animals were the embodiment of all that was uncivilized and, therefore, of barbarian irrationality and evil.’
      • ‘What is the barbarian fascination with airplanes?’
      • ‘Roy is a true original, a barbarian living in a modern world, and relentlessly smashing everything in his path.’
      • ‘The EU, in stern response to today's barbarian terror bombing in Jerusalem, has decided to start giving money again to the Palestinian Authority.’
      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).