Definition of vulgar in English:



  • 1Lacking sophistication or good taste.

    ‘a vulgar check suit’
    • ‘In neither case, of course, was art intended to be reduced to something vulgar or common - a mere commodity, for example, or propaganda.’
    • ‘I find the Metropolis vulgar, myself, but my business requires me to live here.’
    • ‘Characterized by an awkward blending of old and new architectural styles, it appealed to the general population, but sophisticates found it vulgar and ugly.’
    • ‘Looking out on Europe from the sheltered perspective of his home in Basle, Burckhardt deplored the arrival of mass society with its vulgar tastes, turbulent politics, and unlimited capacity for violence.’
    • ‘Just as displaying great wealth is vulgar, so is excessive cheapness.’
    • ‘His anecdotal scenes featuring comic urchins were considered vulgar by critics but appealed to wealthy industrialists.’
    • ‘Columnist John Blunt questioned whether such stunts classed as entertainment, when in fact they showed rather poor, even vulgar, taste.’
    • ‘Yet it continues to be maligned by ‘proper’ musicians and cultural sophisticates as the epitome of vulgar kitsch.’
    • ‘Quite apart from the serious ethical questions surrounding the killing of animals for their fur, mink fell out of favour as it became associated with the vulgar side of wealth.’
    • ‘The Ipswich Express said his sermons were ‘Redolent of bad taste, vulgar, and theatrical.’’
    • ‘I do have a guilty secret - I watch one of the most trashy, vulgar programmes on British TV.’
    • ‘Britain is a cultural treasure house, a center for entertainment from the most sophisticated to the very vulgar indeed.’
    • ‘Manufacturers and importers are confident that there is now a market in India for what are called ‘luxury goods’, but are better described as products that are a vulgar display of extreme wealth.’
    • ‘Many thought the painting vulgar and tawdry in its intention but many more adopted it as a contemporary religious icon and so it became one of the most popular paintings in the civic collection.’
    • ‘Selznick is often portrayed as a vulgar showman, catering to the lowest taste of the great American public.’
    • ‘There is some truth to this image, which reflects a popular sense that wealth is vulgar.’
    • ‘We blame them for violence in society, vulgar tastes and a host of other ills.’
    • ‘He was crude, vulgar, tacky and brilliantly funny.’
    • ‘For example, in Japan fifty years ago it was considered vulgar to swim in a swimming suit but now bikinis are the norm.’
    • ‘It's almost as common and vulgar as chewing gum while you're serving customers.’
    tasteless, gross, crass, unrefined, tawdry, ostentatious, flamboyant, over-elaborate, overdone, showy, flashy, gaudy, garish, brassy, kitsch, tinselly, flaunting, glaring, brash, loud, harsh
    impolite, ill-mannered, unmannerly, indecorous, unseemly, ill-bred, boorish, low, low-minded, gross, uncouth, crude, rough
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  • 2Making explicit and offensive reference to sex or bodily functions; coarse and rude.

    ‘a vulgar joke’
    • ‘As if this was not bad enough, the article was accompanied by a vulgar colour photograph of the winning side in various stages of undress.’
    • ‘Political correctness has certainly not hindered my ability to be vulgar or offensive.’
    • ‘Our engineers were fooling about in the studio singing vulgar songs and making rude remarks in front of the microphone.’
    • ‘Basically, we advocate discussions within the framework of the law and discourage rumors, abuse and vulgar, offensive stuff.’
    • ‘There is no question that personal attacks should be removed, but what about rude or vulgar comments?’
    • ‘So they do and say things that are just vulgar and rude.’
    • ‘The poet who was so courtly and gentle in his verse could be coarse and vulgar in his everyday speech.’
    • ‘She was besieged by vulgar and offensive propositions, her home was stalked and her work life affected by obscene callers.’
    • ‘Once vulgar words are commonplace in the papers and the television, there's no going back - and public life just gets cruder and cruder.’
    • ‘His reputation is based upon offerings that are simply offensive and vulgar graffiti, lacking in humor, without wit, and devoid of intelligent satire.’
    • ‘No show that I can remember has plumbed such offensive depths in vulgar and derogatory language.’
    • ‘There is not even a single vulgar or explicit scene in the entire film.’
    • ‘However, as I was reading the March / April 2003 issue I was surprised and disappointed at the appearance of vulgar language and explicit references.’
    • ‘At its mildest, the consequence is vulgar language and rude behavior that diminish the quality of our day-to-day public interactions.’
    • ‘I brace myself for something offensive or vulgar or just inane enough to cause me to stifle a laugh.’
    • ‘The skit was getting more and more vulgar and explicit, the volume was turned up far too loud, and it became evident to me that my driver was playing a prank.’
    • ‘Sexually explicit scenes and vulgar language are sliced off to make the feature films more palatable to all age groups.’
    • ‘Rather than being incisive or challenging, they're merely vulgar and offensive.’
    • ‘Seldom have we witnessed a more shameless display of rude and vulgar behavior towards an invited guest.’
    • ‘The most common forms of abuse were much less sophisticated and amounted to little more than vulgar name-calling.’
    rude, indecent, indelicate, offensive, distasteful, obnoxious, risqué, suggestive, racy, earthy, off colour, colourful, coarse, crude, ribald, rabelaisian, bawdy, obscene, lewd, salacious, licentious, vile, depraved, sordid, smutty, dirty, filthy, pornographic, x-rated, scatological
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  • 3dated Characteristic of or belonging to ordinary people.

    • ‘Heckerling's most well-known films link female characters with humour that belongs to a tradition of vulgar or low comedy.’
    • ‘Thasos passed measures to prevent wine-shops becoming bars, while the fact that taverns were so popular in Byzantium and Athens revealed the essentially vulgar character of democratic societies.’
    • ‘The most likely explanation, however, is that Nushu derives from a simplification of vulgar forms of Chinese characters used in handwriting.’
    • ‘At this time Jerome had translated the Hebrew Bible into Latin and it came to be known as the Vulgate, for the vulgar, that is, the ordinary people.’


Late Middle English: from Latin vulgaris, from vulgus common people. The original senses were ‘used in ordinary calculations’(surviving in vulgar fraction) and ‘in ordinary use, used by the people’(surviving in vulgar tongue).