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

Essential Meaning of bourgeois

1 : relating to or belonging to the middle class of society the bourgeois class bourgeois families/businessmen
2 disapproving : having qualities or values associated with the middle class : too concerned about wealth, possessions, and respectable behavior bourgeois life/culture/society bourgeois attitudes/values bourgeois materialism

Full 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
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 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

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 Director Ryusuke Hamaguchi takes the title literally for a three-hour demonstration of bourgeois alienation. Armond White, National Review, 24 Dec. 2021 That snakeskin of bourgeois psychological management is what Eve spent her life continually shimmying out of. Los Angeles Times, 21 Dec. 2021 Thompson plays Irene, a bourgeois Black woman in 1920s Harlem who learns her childhood friend is living as a white lady. Nate Jones, Vulture, 5 Nov. 2021 Bohemianism is a local equilibrium within bourgeois society. Deborah Treisman, The New Yorker, 22 Nov. 2021 Wotan and his furious wife, Fricka, chic in white, are identifiably bourgeois here, but there is not a strong social or political message driving the opera’s conflicts. New York Times, 21 Nov. 2021 Red Guards took away his family’s piano, damning it as a bourgeois bauble. Jay Nordlinger, National Review, 16 Nov. 2021 She was born into a comfortable bourgeois home in Chemnitz, Germany., 4 Nov. 2021 Born in Berlin in 1913, Oppenheim grew up in Switzerland surrounded by a liberal, bourgeois family. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian Magazine, 21 Oct. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun For more than a century, the Princes’ Islands have served Istanbul’s bourgeois as a refuge from the pollution and other unpleasantries of the megalopolis. Jenna Scatena, The Atlantic, 18 Dec. 2021 In mid-November Éric Zemmour, the French far-right presidential candidate, professional provocateur, and virulent Islamophobe, made a campaign stop in Bordeaux, one of France’s most affluent bourgeois strongholds. James Mcauley, The New York Review of Books, 16 Dec. 2021 Their bourgeois arrangement is unconsidered and automatic, and Harriet is expected to replicate it. Rebecca Panovka, The New Yorker, 9 Dec. 2021 It’s about the bonds and derangements of motherhood, and—as the shadow of politics descends—the deceptive comforts of bourgeois life.—T.A. Vogue, 21 Oct. 2021 But Republicans painted electric vehicles as a bourgeois-bohemian accessory to be subsidized by taxpayers, the latest symbol of excess. Marcy Gordon, ajc, 15 Sep. 2021 The portrait that emerges is more complicated than the common views of Franklin as either a smug bourgeois or a genial old man. New York Times, 1 Sep. 2021 Here, the story is based in more skittish black bourgeois art-world elitism. Armond White, National Review, 1 Sep. 2021 What begins as an exercise in emotional channeling turns, by degrees, into a laceratingly public admission of her own bourgeois misery. Guy Lodge, Variety, 29 Aug. 2021

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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The first known use of bourgeois was in 1604

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Last Updated

10 Jan 2022

Cite this Entry

“Bourgeois.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 17 Jan. 2022.

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