Merriam-Webster Logo
  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
  • Scrabble
  • Spanish Central
  • Learner's Dictionary


adjective bour·geois \ˈbu̇rzh-ˌwä also ˈbu̇zh- or ˈbüzh- or bu̇rzh-ˈ\

Simple Definition of bourgeois

  • : relating to or belonging to the middle class of society

  • : having qualities or values associated with the middle class : too concerned about wealth, possessions, and respectable behavior

Source: Merriam-Webster's Learner's Dictionary

Full Definition of bourgeois

  1. 1 :  of, relating to, or characteristic of the social middle class

  2. 2 :  marked by a concern for material interests and respectability and a tendency toward mediocrity

  3. 3 :  dominated by commercial and industrial interests :  capitalistic


play \ˌbu̇(r)zh-ˌwä-zə-fə-ˈkā-shən\ noun


play \bu̇(r)zh-ˈwä-zə-ˌfī\ verb

Examples of bourgeois in a sentence

  1. Indignation about the powers that be and the bourgeois fools who did their bidding—that was all you needed … You were an intellectual. —Tom Wolfe, Harper's, June 2000

  2. Even before the 19th century was over, successive waves of collection mania had rolled across Europe and America, submerging country homes and bourgeois town houses in ferns and faux-Grecian ruins … —Liesl Schillinger, New York Times Book Review, 7 Feb. 1999

  3. Or is Sartre's existentialism to be understood as only a way station in his transit from a bourgeois intellectual to a Marxist ideologue? —Walker Percy, “The State of the Novel,” 1977, in Signposts in a Strange Land, 1991

  4. … the United States … was the bourgeois nation par excellence, in which, it might be said, the values of trade were transmogrified into ideals of freedom. —Robert Penn Warren, Democracy and Poetry, 1975

History of bourgeois

Bourgeois is often mistakenly used to refer to people of considerable wealth or status, possibly because the French pronunciation causes us to associate it with opulence, yet the word is of decidedly middle-class origins (and meaning). It first appeared as a noun signifying “an inhabitant of a town” in the 1564 work _ A Discourse Wrytten by M. Theodore de Beza_: “the Lordes of Strasbourgh consented, vpo condition that he should be alwayes a Bourgeois of their towne.” Because many town-dwellers made their living in business and commerce, bourgeois became synonymous with the social class of such people, namely, the middle class. During the nineteenth century, in Marxist writings, the word became associated with capitalism and took on a negative connotation. Bourgeois may function as either a noun or an adjective. In modern parlance, it has come to suggest overmuch concern with respectability and wealth.

Origin and Etymology of bourgeois

Middle French, from Old French burgeis townsman, from burc, borg town, from Latin burgus

First Known Use: circa 1565



noun bour·geois \ˈbu̇rzh-ˌwä also ˈbu̇zh- or ˈbüzh- or bu̇rzh-ˈ\

Definition of bourgeois



play \-ˌwä(z), -ˈwä(z)\
  1. 1 a :  burgher b :  a middle-class person

  2. 2 :  a person with social behavior and political views held to be influenced by private-property interest :  capitalist

  3. 3 plural :  bourgeoisie

Examples of bourgeois in a sentence

  1. For many, Nietzsche has always been a bugaboo, though some regard him as an heroic destroyer of idols, the invigorating voice of skepticism, and a revealer of those embarrassing actualities that the pieties and protestations of the bourgeois have customarily concealed. —William H. Gass, Harper's, August 2005

  2. With exceptions like Rousseau, the philosophes were elitists. They enlightened through noblesse oblige in company with noblemen, and often with a patronizing attitude toward the bourgeois as well as the common people. —Robert Darnton, The Kiss of Lamourette, 1990

Origin and Etymology of bourgeois

(see 1bourgeois)

First Known Use: circa 1674


biographical name Bour·geois \bu̇rzh-ˈwä, ˈbu̇rzh-ˌ\

Definition of Bourgeois

  1. Léon-Victor-Auguste 1851–1925 Fr. statesman


biographical name bour·geois

Definition of Bourgeois

  1. Louise 1911–2010 Am. (Fr.-born) sculptor

Learn More about bourgeois

Seen and Heard

What made you want to look up bourgeois? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


of or relating to the heavens

Get Word of the Day daily email!


Take a 3-minute break and test your skills!


Which is a synonym of asperse?

divulge defame beat placate
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.