Definition of savage in US English:



  • 1(of an animal or force of nature) fierce, violent, and uncontrolled.

    ‘tales of a savage beast’
    ‘a week of savage storms’
    • ‘He shuddered at the thought of those savage beasts.’
    • ‘He looked very much like a savage creature, with his wild, shaggy black hair and infuriated and crazed grin.’
    • ‘The horrible noises of the savage beasts filled them with fear.’
    • ‘They say that music soothes the savage beast, but it can also make the sick feel better.’
    • ‘Writers from La Bruyère to Zola may have likened peasants to savage beasts, but in fact, even within the social structure of the old regime, it was possible for rural productivity to rise significantly.’
    • ‘The alleged victim also claims he was dragged backstage where the savage attack continued.’
    • ‘There was a savage dog that barked at me, but at least I had a rest from the hill.’
    • ‘One could never estimate what damage such a natural savage force might bring.’
    • ‘But life among the dogs was savage; no law existed but that of fang and force.’
    • ‘The two combatants charged at each other with weapons drawn and fought like savage beasts.’
    • ‘These fierce and savage warriors actually consisted of Jutes, Friesians, Angles and Saxons.’
    • ‘A savage attack left me with post-traumatic stress disorder.’
    • ‘I saw the transformation take place, the placid exterior to the violent, savage beast.’
    • ‘Young children would be fed to the savage dogs of Persavoran fame.’
    • ‘Tonight, she cheated death by inches when a savage mountain lion attacked.’
    • ‘He explained some things about the human mind, and how mankind began originally as savage hunters, fighting for their food and anything that got in their way.’
    • ‘The savage attack has been classified as a hate crime by the Police Department.’
    • ‘One would think that they were getting ready to unlock the cage of some savage beast.’
    • ‘We had terrible visions of savage marauders destroying sacred idols, throwing them around with vicious glee.’
    • ‘How do you understand the savage cruelty shown by the captors to their prisoners?’
    ferocious, fierce
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Cruel and vicious; aggressively hostile.
      ‘they launched a savage attack on the budget’
      • ‘This was a cynical and savage attack on the manufactured pop band culture of the 1990s.’
      • ‘The reality is that he lost the confidence of the company, was attacked by leading artists and attracted a savage motion in the House of Commons which together made his position untenable.’
      • ‘Even his old financial wizardry was in doubt: two loans floated in August failed miserably after savage criticism in the Assembly.’
      • ‘Having clarified that, we cannot remain silent during what appears to be a ruthless and savage attack by the media on Charlie's character.’
      • ‘The publication of the book had brought, besides savage criticism and attack, a compensatory leavening of pleasant new literary acquaintances in its wake.’
      • ‘It is a savage indictment of American political consciousness from one of the most underrated of British film-makers.’
      • ‘The Servant is a savage indictment of the English class system, and its waning hold over all aspects of the working and cultural life of Britain.’
      • ‘His natural gift for writing led him to enjoy hurling savage personal abuse at his Tory opponents, but he was not pleased when his attacks were returned with interest.’
      • ‘It is a savage attack on the archetypical French liberal bourgeois.’
      • ‘We tried to have a debate on serious historical presidents, and you make it into a savage attack on the current president.’
      • ‘After five years he escaped to America, from where he continued his savage denunciations of British policy in Ireland and around the world.’
      • ‘His influence on both reports was very great and he was appointed secretary to the Poor Law Commission in 1834, a post which brought him savage criticism.’
      • ‘Both couples suffer in unhappy marriages, and they deal with their situations through denial, deceit, and savage personal attacks.’
      • ‘The background of Silvia Prieto is the savage capitalism of the market economy while in La ciénaga it is the decrepit world of traditional rural economies.’
      • ‘The actor has launched a savage attack on Hollywood - saying the film industry is full of racists.’
      vicious, brutal, cruel, sadistic, ferocious, fierce, violent, bloody, murderous, homicidal, bloodthirsty, bestial, brutish, barbaric, barbarous, merciless, ruthless, pitiless, heartless, inhuman, harsh, callous, cold-blooded
      fierce, blistering, scathing, searing, stinging, devastating, mordant, trenchant, caustic, cutting, biting, withering, virulent, vitriolic
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2 (chiefly in historical or literary contexts) primitive; uncivilized.
      • ‘It set all England talking about contemporary painting, and sent the more alert not only to Paris but to museums and collections where they could have a look at primitive, oriental and savage art.’
      • ‘Some people argue that capital punishment is a savage act and must be abolished in every state.’
      • ‘Then he tells her of his wild tales of the savage barbarian Conan, and she sees the fire in his eyes.’
      primitive, uncivilized, unenlightened, non-literate, in a state of nature, heathen
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3 (of a place) wild-looking and inhospitable; uncultivated.
      • ‘Bridget bought me a very complicated-looking pair of hiking boots, for all the savage terrain I am likely to encounter.’
      • ‘I don't want to stay forever lost in this savage wilderness.’
      • ‘I lived in northern, wild, savage England, just on the cusp of being Scotland.’
      • ‘Namibia's landscape has a savage grandeur unlike that of any other African country.’
      • ‘Hot and dry in summer, bitterly cold and exposed in winter, the Cevennes may be a harsh and unforgiving land but it possesses a raw, savage and inspiring beauty.’
      • ‘The scene was one of powerful and savage beauty.’
      • ‘They turned useless prairies into golden wheat fields, their wagons into powerful locomotives, and a savage wilderness into a network of commerce and trade.’
      • ‘Playwright Edward Bond supplied sinewy dialogue, but nothing could compete with Roeg's startling images of fierce orange suns, lizards and insects, and savage terrain.’
      rugged, rough, wild, inhospitable, uninhabitable
      View synonyms
    4. 1.4 (of something bad or negative) very great; severe.
      ‘this would deal a savage blow to the government's fight’
      • ‘His first period in office as Prime Minister is best known for his savage repression of labour unrest, which earned him the hostility of the Socialist Party and left him little time for social reform.’
      • ‘Officials said negotiators had been close to agreement when the IMF made new demands for savage budget cuts.’
      • ‘Other service industries are reacting to excess capacity and weak demand with savage price wars, further depressing prices.’
      • ‘Women are often subjected to a savage and unexpected attack of the maternal instinct in their late thirties and sometimes those who have chosen not to have children come to regret it.’
      • ‘But life had dealt them, and Radio Kilkenny, a savage blow, a knockout punch.’
      • ‘The company has announced a savage price cut of its videogame system.’
      • ‘The company's near demise paralleled the savage downturn in market demand, aggravated by an unsupportable overhead structure.’
      severe, crushing, devastating, crippling, terrible, awful, dreadful, dire, catastrophic, calamitous, ruinous
      View synonyms


  • 1(chiefly in historical or literary contexts) a member of a people regarded as primitive and uncivilized.

    • ‘In the mythology of ancient China, Han, the Chinese man, is distinguished from savages and barbarians by two features of his eating habits: he eats cereals and uses fire to process his food.’
    • ‘Colonial forces brought the Bible to the heathen and civilization to the savage.’
    • ‘Shakespeare is not a partisan of the noble savage who lives by instinct alone: rather, it is the savage in man that he fears and detests.’
    • ‘He'd been told that they are thieves, savages, and barbarians.’
    • ‘It was generally accepted that different rules applied when fighting savages than in warfare between European powers.’
    • ‘The film's black characters (many of them white actors in blackface) are either servile or savages.’
    • ‘Not surprisingly, it's a delicate issue for Native Americans, considering the once-prevalent stereotypes of Indians as marauding savages.’
    • ‘A savage, if could understand it, would worship it as a god.’
    • ‘Filson depicted the Kentucky frontier as a howling wilderness inhabited by wild beasts and uncivilized savages.’
    • ‘The farmers in their turn described the Bedouin as savages and pagans.’
    • ‘The people there are savages, but they don't attack often.’
    • ‘It is commonly said that it shows how thin is the veneer of civilisation and how readily we humans can return to the state of primitive savages or animals and once again become blindly destructive.’
    • ‘Those who feel whiteness is not worth analysing should investigate how English stereotypes of the Irish as savages became the model for racist profiling of Africans and Asians during the Empire.’
    • ‘The incident scandalised Europeans at the time - a white woman at the mercy of brown savages - and a punitive expedition slaughtered scores of Maori in rescuing her.’
    • ‘To be thus condescended to by heathen savages was intolerable.’
    • ‘His belief that slaves were better off in American chains than in African freedom reflected anthropological ignorance expressed in the blind assumption that all Africans were savages.’
    • ‘Under Jack's rule, the boys become uncivilized savages.’
    • ‘Though destined for success, the novel at first met with criticism: Kostylev was accused of simplifying Ivan's character and portraying Russians as savages.’
    • ‘The Mongols were pagan, brutal savages who were not to be trusted, he declared.’
    • ‘Oh yes, they were hopeless philistines, little better than savages actually.’
    barbarian, wild man, wild woman, primitive, heathen
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A brutal or vicious person.
      ‘the mother of one of the victims has described his assailants as savages’
      • ‘The problem is at heart we're basically just savages, animals, and always will be, ready to use violence to solve all our problems, no matter what the consequences might be.’
      • ‘They are heartless savages and even less than animals.’
      • ‘Close up, they didn't look at all like the vicious savages she had encountered when she first came here.’
      brute, beast, monster, barbarian, ogre, demon, sadist, animal
      View synonyms


[with object]
  • 1(especially of a dog or wild animal) attack ferociously and maul.

    ‘ewes savaged by marauding dogs’
    • ‘Nature's brutal and unforgiving approach is most evident when the orca whale savages a newly born grey whale and its mother, tearing away the whole baby's outer jaw in one swift motion.’
    • ‘Helen treats the fact that the bear has savaged her hands and reduced them to bleeding stumps as a minor inconvenience.’
    • ‘While still intact for the most part, the body has been chewed and savaged brutally.’
    • ‘The lions chased him, and savaged his leg before he fell into a thorn bush too dense for them to reach him.’
    • ‘There could be no liability for a dog known to be vicious until after it had managed to savage someone.’
    • ‘Wilson tried to toss his coat over the dog to subdue it, but the dog savaged his hand and wrist until J.M. shot it.’
    • ‘The dog savaged the plaintiff when she entered the yard at night with her boyfriend who worked there.’
    • ‘We'd have heard if people were being savaged by vulpine man-eaters.’
    • ‘In the meantime, the bear that savaged Mitch also makes a return and is taken into captivity, bringing back another ghost from Einar's past.’
    • ‘The family's cat, she said, had savaged the bird, and one wing had been torn.’
    • ‘If it's our ewe your dog is savaging that setout man may be saving you $125 and my wife's formidable wrath.’
    • ‘People are still savaged by dogs, but the topic is no longer fashionable.’
    • ‘Jebb - though not McLaren - also points to another grievance, in Aboriginal camp dogs, sometimes numbering thirty or more, savaging the stock.’
    maul, attack, tear to pieces, lacerate, claw, bite, mutilate, mangle
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 Subject to a vicious verbal attack; criticize brutally.
      ‘Fowler savaged her in his next review’
      • ‘As someone who has written more than his share of omnibus reviews/poetry chronicles, especially for this magazine, I know the temptation reviewers are subject to by way of savaging thin volumes of verse.’
      • ‘Rarely in the history of magazines has a former editor so savaged his successor.’
      • ‘Marxist critics savaged La Strada as an abandonment of neorealist principles, but as a director, Fellini was never really a neorealist to begin with.’
      • ‘It hardly seems to matter that the critics have universally savaged this show.’
      • ‘Critics across the country savaged the film upon its initial release, dismissing it as directionless and dreary.’
      • ‘Pundits lost no time in savaging the weakness of the script, the poverty of the acting and shambolic directing.’
      • ‘Alexander fully expects to be savaged by reviewers again.’
      • ‘As Toronto theatre critics dispense increasingly disparate opinions, some shows are savaged in one rag and lionized in another.’
      • ‘Critics are going to savage this film out of respect to Charade and that's not really fair.’
      • ‘I have had occasion over the years to savage this or that actor or screenwriter or director in print as part of my work as a film critic.’
      • ‘Popular British and Australian historians have savaged the commanders at the Dardanelles as cold-blooded murderers.’
      • ‘The $10.5 million show, a haphazard pastiche of various famous Dr. Seuss stories, had been savaged by critics when it debuted in late November.’
      • ‘And the celebrity in question is violently torn down from their pedestal, savaged for as long as it pleases people, and finally cast aside, no longer of any use to anyone,’
      • ‘Critics have, predictably, savaged the story, but everyone agrees the show is spectacular.’
      • ‘Most critics savaged his comedy when it was released last fall, but really, what were they expecting?’
      • ‘No one savaged the law's delays and inequities more energetically than Dickens, yet no one worried more about the results of revolution and lawlessness.’
      • ‘Critics are savaging a government-funded course in Birmingham where grown-ups are being taught how to text and download ringtones.’
      • ‘As predicted by many US pundits prior to its release, the film has been relentlessly savaged by the critics, and looks like a surefire contender for one of the worst movies of the year.’
      • ‘The book, influenced greatly by him, had largely been savaged by Australian critics and I wanted to see what he himself would make of it.’
      • ‘Perhaps no other great European choreographer, save Roland Petit, has been as neglected and critically savaged in the United States.’
      criticize severely, attack, lambaste, condemn, flay, shoot down, pillory, revile
      View synonyms


Middle English: from Old French sauvage ‘wild’, from Latin silvaticus ‘of the woods’, from silva ‘a wood’.