Definition of barbarian in English:



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

    • ‘It was predicated on the idea of an inherent superiority of the Greek over the barbarian.’
    • ‘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 might be because purists realized they were a small group of Roman centurions and the barbarians were at the gates.’
    • ‘It was arrogant pretension of the ancient Greeks to imagine that barbarians were slaves by nature.’
    • ‘Although the Roman aristocrats despised the barbarians, many also believed that they could use them to their own purposes.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Barbarians, or rather some barbarians in the eyes of some Greeks, did not need images at all.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The ancient Romans divided people between civilised and barbarian.’
    • ‘As the barbarians invaded, they often took over the old Roman provincial titles, so that Roman authority continued in a new guise.’
    • ‘His main historical significance is his acceleration of the settlement of barbarians on Roman territory.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘That is, it is Moira that determines who shall be slave or master, peasant or warrior, citizen or non-citizen, Greek or barbarian.’
    • ‘They did not so much beat the barbarians as the mere appearance of Roman legions caused the invaders to withdraw.’
    • ‘Hadrian, we are informed by his fourth-century biographer, built his wall to divide the Romans from the barbarians.’
    1. 1.1 An uncultured or brutish person.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘They usually portray American military personnel as barbarians with no respect for human 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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘What distinguishes civilized man from a barbarian must be acquired by every individual anew.’
      • ‘What happens when the barbarians, the grand ignorant, never appear and so cannot be defeated or contained?’
      • ‘Ever since we'd been kidnapped by the barbarians, she had changed, and it hadn't been subtle.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The rampant crowds were like ancient Viking barbarians, smoking heavily and taking down alcohol in large gulps.’
      • ‘Texans were more or less thought of as yahoo barbarians somewhere between the Beverly Hillbillies and Deliverance.’
      • ‘Only barbarians, he argued, would execute a man based upon this quality of testimony.’
      • ‘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
      View synonyms


  • 1Relating to ancient barbarians.

    ‘barbarian invasions’
    ‘barbarian peoples’
    • ‘Be that as it may, after the barbarian invasion there was no authority to re-introduce gold coinage that would circulate.’
    • ‘If this is a clash of civilizations, then one of our soldiers has just been murdered by our barbarian enemies.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Europe took refuge in a feudal system in the face of increasing barbarian invasion.’
    • ‘This promising line of thought takes us back to the barbarian invasions that overwhelmed Rome in the 5th century.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘But that attaches all of the barbarian interlude to ancient history, which is counter to our usual notions.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Positive or negative, all these barbarian invasions are there, and we must live with this.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In the West, however, Diocletian's system worked for a time, but then fell apart in the face of the barbarian invasions.’
    • ‘And maybe that date will be viewed in future centuries as the beginning of the great barbarian invasions.’
    • ‘Arles, once the capital of Roman Gaul, declined after the barbarian invasions and experienced a political and economic revival in the 12 th century.’
    • ‘Jordanes, who wrote in Constantinople in the 550s, even described the coup of 476 as if it had been a fully-fledged 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.’
    • ‘Torsion catapults continued to be built into the time of the barbarian invasions when they were superseded by a traction artillery piece, the trebuchet.’
    atheistic, unbelieving, non-believing, non-theistic, agnostic, sceptical, heretical, faithless, godless, ungodly, unholy, impious, profane, infidel, barbarous, heathen, heathenish, idolatrous, pagan
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Uncultured; brutish.
      • ‘Suddenly, all the networks want drama again and the barbarian tide of reality tele-vision is in retreat.’
      • ‘Terminal illness makes a fantastic, fun-filled irreverent backdrop for black comedy, exploding with comments on humankind's barbarian invasion of the planet.’
      • ‘But to the mindset of today's European leaders and commentators, America is a barbarian nation intent on world domination.’
      • ‘Roy is a true original, a barbarian living in a modern world, and relentlessly smashing everything in his path.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Despite being written for a barbarian reed pipe, Ts'ai Yen's songs can still be sung on Chinese instruments.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Democratic processes can do nothing to assuage the homicidal needs of barbarian madmen.’
      • ‘And if we do not do something, these barbarian rodents are bound to take over our lives!’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The EU, in stern response to today's barbarian terror bombing in Jerusalem, has decided to start giving money again to the Palestinian Authority.’
      • ‘We lost several thousand to barbarian attacks.’
      • ‘Today, a message from an Internet café could have confirmed the barbarian incursions were nightmares come true.’
      • ‘‘[The anti-secession law] is barbarian and invasive behavior,’ Lee said.’
      • ‘A barbarian dictator who stares down the US can lead a region to war, terrorism, and oppression on a global scale.’
      • ‘What is the barbarian fascination with airplanes?’
      • ‘In their wild and alien nature, these animals were the embodiment of all that was uncivilized and, therefore, of barbarian irrationality and evil.’
      savage, uncivilized, barbaric, barbarous, primitive, heathen, wild, brutish, neanderthal
      View synonyms


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).