bour·​geois | \ ˈbu̇rzh-ˌwä also ˈbu̇zh- or ˈbüzh- or bu̇rzh-ˈwä How to pronounce bourgeois (audio) \

Definition of bourgeois

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1 : of, relating to, or characteristic of the social middle class
2 : marked by a concern for material interests and respectability and a tendency toward mediocrity
3 : dominated by commercial and industrial interests : capitalistic


bour·​geois | \ ˈbu̇rzh-ˌwä also ˈbu̇zh- or ˈbüzh- or bu̇rzh-ˈwä How to pronounce bourgeois (audio) \
plural bourgeois\ ˈbu̇rzh-​ˌwä(z) also  ˈbu̇zh-​ or  ˈbüzh-​ or  bu̇rzh-​ˈwä(z) How to pronounce bourgeois (audio) \

Definition of bourgeois (Entry 2 of 4)

1a : a middle-class person
2 : a person with social behavior and political views held to be influenced by private-property interest : capitalist
3 plural : bourgeoisie


biographical name (1)
Bour·​geois | \ bu̇rzh-ˈwä How to pronounce Bourgeois (audio) , ˈbu̇rzh-ˌwä \

Definition of Bourgeois (Entry 3 of 4)

Léon-Victor-Auguste 1851–1925 French statesman


biographical name (2)

Definition of Bourgeois (Entry 4 of 4)

Louise 1911–2010 American (French-born) sculptor

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Other Words from bourgeois


bourgeoisification \ ˌbu̇(r)zh-​ˌwä-​zə-​fə-​ˈkā-​shən How to pronounce Bourgeois (audio) \ noun
bourgeoisify \ bu̇(r)zh-​ˈwä-​zə-​ˌfī How to pronounce Bourgeois (audio) \ verb

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.

Examples of bourgeois in a Sentence

Adjective 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 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 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 Land1991 … 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 Noun 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 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
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective Under the new communist regime, which was built on the promise of creating social equality, religion was banned as it was deemed a bourgeois instrument to repress the working class. Madeline Roache, Time, "How Soviet Russia Banished Their Version of Santa Claus, Then Brought Him Back to Spread Communist Cheer," 24 Dec. 2020 Berthe and Edma were from an upper-bourgeois family. Washington Post, "This is the painting I’d take home, if I could," 9 Dec. 2020 Daniel Bouyjou was born in Bordeaux on Aug. 10, 1920, to a conservative, bourgeois businessman. Phil Davison, Washington Post, "Daniel Cordier, French Resistance hero, dies at 100," 23 Nov. 2020 As a veteran reader of Soviet fiction, I was tempted to conclude that we are meant to condemn Sun Hee as someone motivated simply by a bourgeois desire for social status, denigrating the noble work of an unsung hero of the proletariat. Sophie Pinkham, The New York Review of Books, "‘Something Resembling Normal Life’," 17 Nov. 2020 An Oregon untethered from the bourgeois U.S. could become a laboratory for the left’s wildest dreams. Dave Seminara, WSJ, "If Trump Is Re-Elected, Oregon Could Be Headed for a Crackup," 23 Oct. 2020 Before the pandemic, one of his goals was to further democratize Pret and reach consumers who had previously been deterred by its bourgeois reputation. Sam Knight, The New Yorker, "The Future of the Office Lunch," 28 Sep. 2020 Their life seems to have been the stuff of bourgeois intellectual fantasy: writing, culture, dinner parties, traveling and living abroad. Lauren Oyler, Harper's Magazine, "Le Mot Juste," 15 Sep. 2020 There are shops and even advertising circulars, but the effulgences of capitalism are absent, as are the trappings of bourgeois society. Christian Lorentzen, Harper's Magazine, "Coetzee’s Radical Masterpiece," 18 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Davies is less interested in the bourgeois fabric of life—where McLaughlin is like Ibsen, whose plays are cluttered with objects, Davies is closer to Chekhov, whose characters act on a near-empty stage. Claire Messud, Harpers Magazine, "New Books," 5 Jan. 2021 Some will dismiss this observation as an elite, bourgeois, and purely cosmetic concern. Cameron Hilditch, National Review, "Republicans’ Choice: Trump or 2024?," 2 Nov. 2020 Taught by her parents to repress her emotions and individual sense of identity — a symptom of middle class bourgeois comfort — Old Dolio is ill-equipped to deal with the feelings that start to surface when Melanie enters their lives. Anne Cohen,, "How Miranda July & Evan Rachel Wood Created Kajillionaire’s Old Dolio Dyne," 24 Sep. 2020 In other words, The Cosby Show worked for its aspirational black middle-class audience in much the same way that Merchant-Ivory films provided their professional-managerial class devotees a vicarious Edwardian-era bourgeois lineage. Adolph Reed Jr., The New Republic, "TV Race Fables and the Privilege of a Raging Class," 22 Sep. 2020 Typically at home in a flirty cocktail dress or ultra-feminine gown, Collins showed off another side in Anthony Vaccarello’s haute bourgeois powder blue blazer and latex leggings. Janelle Okwodu, Vogue, "This Week, Celebrities Gave Virtual Events Real Fashion Moments," 21 Sep. 2020 They were ridiculed on social media as bourgeois vigilantes; a 2018 St. Louis Magazine article on the painstaking restoration of their extravagant home was recirculated to fuel the mockery. Washington Post, "The gun-toting McCloskeys said they feared death. They survived to fight the culture wars.," 25 Aug. 2020 The organizing principle of class became a sentence of death, exile, or dispossession for tens of millions of men and women defined as bourgeois, capitalist, kulak, or whatever could be profitably exploited. David Pryce-jones, National Review, "Robert Conquest: Sovietologist and Poet," 28 Apr. 2020 Saul came to function as an exterminator of the kind of refined sensibility that separated the sophisticates from the yahoos in haut-bourgeois twentieth-century America. Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker, "The In-Your-Face Paintings of Peter Saul," 10 Feb. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'bourgeois.' 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 bourgeois


1761, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1604, in the meaning defined at sense 1b

History and Etymology for bourgeois

Adjective and Noun

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

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Time Traveler for bourgeois

Time Traveler

The first known use of bourgeois was in 1604

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Statistics for bourgeois

Last Updated

10 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Bourgeois.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 15 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for bourgeois


How to pronounce Bourgeois (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of bourgeois

: relating to or belonging to the middle class of society
disapproving : having qualities or values associated with the middle class : too concerned about wealth, possessions, and respectable behavior

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