bar·​ba·​rism | \ˈbär-bə-ˌri-zəm \

Definition of barbarism 

1a : a barbarian or barbarous social or intellectual condition : backwardness

b : the practice or display of barbarian acts, attitudes, or ideas

2 : an idea, act, or expression that in form or use offends against contemporary standards of good taste or acceptability

Examples of barbarism in a Sentence

The barbarism of his dictatorship cannot be ignored. Such barbarisms cannot be tolerated.

Recent Examples on the Web

Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Mattis suggested chemical weapons differed from conventional arms in their barbarism. Paul Sonne,, "Trump's strikes on Syria risk retaliation, escalation in a war he wants to avoid," 13 Apr. 2018 For them, the skulls—and the entire practice of human sacrifice—evinced the Mexica's barbarism and justified laying waste to the city in 1521. Lizzie Wade, Science | AAAS, "Feeding the gods: Hundreds of skulls reveal massive scale of human sacrifice in Aztec capital," 21 June 2018 Or is our choice between eco-socialism and barbarism? Eric Levitz, Daily Intelligencer, "The Liberal Media Can Have Ideological Diversity Without Conservatives," 6 May 2018 Many outsiders view the killing of a marine mammal as an act of barbarism, and Arctic communities don’t take kindly to being told that their only source of local food is immoral and off-limits. Eva Holland, Smithsonian, "Where the Doomed, Beloved Polar Bear Is Still a Dangerous Predator," 16 May 2018 In the capital, Jakarta, the Indonesian Church Association strongly condemned this act of barbarism. Kate Leaver, Teen Vogue, "At Least 13 People Are Dead After a Family of 6 Allegedly Bombed 3 Churches in Indonesia," 14 May 2018 Other shows in the genre, like Fear the Walking Dead, tend to quickly set characters at each other’s throats in an effort to show that civilization is a kind of communal dream, easily cast aside in favor of barbarism. Asher Elbein, The Atlantic, "The Terror Is More Than a Chilling Monster Show," 1 May 2018 Germany’s plunge from the heights of civilization to the depths of barbarism is an everlasting shock. Naomi Fry, The New Yorker, "How American Racism Influenced Hitler," 23 Apr. 2018 So today, the nations of Britain, France, and the United States of America have marshaled their righteous power against barbarism and brutality. NBC News, "Read Trump's address to the nation on the U.S. attack on Syria," 14 Apr. 2018

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

See More

First Known Use of barbarism

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about barbarism

Statistics for barbarism

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for barbarism

The first known use of barbarism was in the 15th century

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for barbarism



English Language Learners Definition of barbarism

: cruel and violent behavior

: very rude behavior

More from Merriam-Webster on barbarism

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with barbarism

Britannica English: Translation of barbarism for Arabic Speakers

Comments on barbarism

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


amusing and light sparring with words

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Late Autumn 2018 Words of the Day Quiz

  • frosted-autumn-leaves
  • Which is a synonym of yahoo?
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Bee Cubed

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


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!