bar·​bar·​i·​an | \ bär-ˈber-ē-ən How to pronounce barbarian (audio) \
plural barbarians

Definition of barbarian

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a person from an alien land, culture, or group believed to be inferior, uncivilized, or violent used chiefly in historical references In the Roman Empire, cohorts…patrolled the provinces, repelling the barbarians and maintaining the emperor's sovereignty.— Paul C. SchuytemaMuch of Italy had slipped from the grasp of the Byzantines, victim to the vigorous Germanic barbarians…who had begun their migration southward from the forested fastnesses of eastern and central Europe.— Stephen O'Shea
2 : a barbarous person : a rude, crude, uneducated, or uncivilized person No, I'm not some sort of barbarian who would open a bottle of wine to enjoy some before offering it as a gift. That would be uncouth.— Irv Erdos



Definition of barbarian (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : of or relating to a land, culture, or people alien and usually believed to be inferior to another land, culture, or people
2 : lacking refinement, learning, or artistic or literary culture

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Other Words from barbarian


barbarianism \ bär-​ˈber-​ē-​ə-​ˌni-​zəm How to pronounce barbarianism (audio) \ noun

Synonyms & Antonyms for barbarian

Synonyms: Noun

heathen, savage

Synonyms: Adjective

barbaric, barbarous, heathen, heathenish, natural, Neanderthal (or Neandertal), rude, savage, uncivil, uncivilized, uncultivated, wild

Antonyms: Adjective


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Examples of barbarian in a Sentence


people who were regarded as barbarian by the ancient Romans

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The Amazigh are better known as Berbers, but that’s actually a pejorative name, derived from the word barbarian. Terri Colby,, "Camels, casbahs and more make for a magical visit to Morocco," 20 Sep. 2017 But Charlie Gard shows that the barbarian no longer comes wielding a club and grunting in some undecipherable tongue. William Mcgurn, WSJ, "For the Love of Charlie Gard," 17 July 2017 The barbarian stuck behind the glass now indeed had two separate brows, but they were arched far above its eyes as if sketched by a cartoon artist. Iman Hariri-kia, Teen Vogue, "What My Hairiness And Hair Removal Taught Me About American Beauty Standards," 2 Oct. 2017 Looking back eight centuries, Carleton traces an epic tale of war and redemption, of a Russia that finds itself constantly at risk of barbarian invasion and annihilation and yet manages, time and again, to save both itself and its neighbors. Sophie Pinkham, New Republic, "Understanding Russia’s War Stories," 26 Sep. 2017 Medea New adaptation of the classic Greek tragedy about the barbarian princess scorned by her husband, the hero Jason. Matt Cooper,, "The week ahead in L.A. theater, Sept. 3-10: 'Once' at South Coast Rep and more," 3 Sep. 2017 There was a time when Jupiter was the king of the gods, and any man who doubted his puissance was ipso facto a barbarian and an ignoramus. John E. Mcintyre,, "In a word: puissant," 29 Aug. 2017 Would Trump the barbarian have been elected president of the United States even 10 or 20 years ago? John Kass, Twin Cities, "John Kass: Will flaying Trump bring us to normalcy?," 1 June 2017 Would Trump the barbarian have been elected president of the United States even 10 or 20 years ago? John Kass, Twin Cities, "John Kass: Will flaying Trump bring us to normalcy?," 1 June 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'barbarian.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of barbarian


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for barbarian


Latin barbarus — more at barbarous

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Time Traveler for barbarian

The first known use of barbarian was in the 14th century

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More Definitions for barbarian



English Language Learners Definition of barbarian

: a member of a violent or uncivilized group of people especially in past times
: a person who does not behave in a proper way : a rude or uneducated person


bar·​bar·​i·​an | \ bär-ˈber-ē-ən How to pronounce barbarian (audio) \

Kids Definition of barbarian

: an uncivilized person

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Comments on barbarian

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


a period when something is suspended

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