bour·​geois | \ˈbu̇rzh-ˌwä also ˈbu̇zh- or ˈbüzh- or bu̇rzh-ˈwä \

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 \
plural bourgeois\ˈbu̇rzh-​ˌwä(z) also ˈbu̇zh-​ or ˈbüzh-​ or bu̇rzh-​ˈwä(z) \

Definition of bourgeois (Entry 2 of 4)

1a : a middle-class person

b : burgher

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, 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 \ noun
bourgeoisify \bu̇(r)zh-​ˈwä-​zə-​ˌfī \ 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


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


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

Metropolitan' When everything feels too sentimental or sappy for Christmas, find some light entertainment with the snobs of Whit Stillman's bourgeois comedy of manners. Lori Keong, Marie Claire, "7 Offbeat Christmas Movies to Watch with Your Family," 15 Nov. 2016 His lifelong conflicts about his bourgeois Jewish heritage fed his enduring ambivalence about every aspect of himself. Joel Lobenthal, WSJ, "‘Jerome Robbins: A Life in Dance’ Review: Between Two Traditions," 11 Oct. 2018 On Twitter, Megan McArdle suggested to me that the fix for the family structure problem is for Hollywood to become moralistic and scoldy about unmarried parents and to valorize bourgeois conventionality. Matthew Yglesias, Vox, "Family structure matters, but can we do anything about it?," 5 Oct. 2018 Think pencil skirts and silk blouses, bourgeois tailoring, and, of course, the famous Burberry trench. Brooke Bobb, Vogue, "Julia Roberts Looks Every Inch the Pretty Woman in Riccardo Tisci’s New Burberry," 2 Oct. 2018 Any hint of style or glamour denoted bourgeois aspirations, which were loudly denounced in a society focused on industrialization and agriculture. Niree Noel, Allure, "The Evolution of Armenia’s Beauty Industry, According to Women Who Witnessed It," 27 July 2018 In her review of Kudos for Slate, Sally Rooney argues that Cusk’s novels are essentially bourgeois in their conception of familial responsibility. Jordan Larson, The Cut, "Rachel Cusk’s Rules for Living," 25 June 2018 However, a new study suggests that this experiential-purchase advantage may be a bourgeois indulgence. Kevin Lewis,, "Judges vs. climate change," 1 June 2018 After the Communist takeover in 1949, Liang and Lin, archetypal bourgeois intellectuals, became fodder for Communists trying to display party loyalty. New York Times, "Overlooked No More: Lin Huiyin and Liang Sicheng, Chroniclers of Chinese Architecture," 11 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Members of the rich elite are referred to as fifis, the equivalent of bourgeois. New York Times, "The Firebrand Leftist Far Ahead in Mexico’s Presidential Polls," 29 June 2018 Delano is an uptight bourgeois black fellow from Oak Park. Tony Adler, Chicago Reader, "The members of Support Group for Men don’t get eviscerated, but what does happen isn’t much more edifying," 2 July 2018 The decadence served at pricey bourgeois restaurants are withheld from the tongues of those who craft such pleasures., "The Revolution Will Not Be Salaried," 31 May 2018 That maxim—a sound mind in a sound body—is the sort of bourgeois faux-wisdom that fails to equip Aickman’s civil servants to deal with the supernatural. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "Weird Fiction Is Alive," 7 May 2018 Godard wants to find an approach to filmmaking that will answer to his sense of political urgency, an insurgent cinema that will be adamantly critical of everything conventional and bourgeois. A.o. Scott, New York Times, "Review: If You Love Godard, You’ll Hate-Watch ‘Godard Mon Amour’," 18 Apr. 2018 The voyageurs, manageurs du lard, and bourgeois that MacKenzie worked with had already discovered and mapped much of the continent by then. Porter Fox, Outside Online, "The Best New Books About Epic Expeditions," 19 Apr. 2018 In this case, the central families are the Schlegels — half-German and half-English, bohemian, and carelessly cosmopolitan — and the Wilcoxes: thoroughly English, bourgeois, and casually imperialist. Constance Grady, Vox, "Howards End is a strangely timely adaptation of E.M. Forster’s “picture of liberal guilt”," 15 Apr. 2018 This, of course, caused even more fury among the bourgeois, who hated the vision of France and French bourgeoisie that Sartre’s novels and new journal were projecting back at them. Longreads, "When Sartre and Beauvoir Started a Magazine," 10 Apr. 2018

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


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


see bourgeois entry 1

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Last Updated

14 Dec 2018

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The first known use of bourgeois was in 1604

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English Language Learners 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

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More from Merriam-Webster on bourgeois

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with bourgeois

Spanish Central: Translation of bourgeois

Nglish: Translation of bourgeois for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of bourgeois for Arabic Speakers

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a nest or breeding place

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