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
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

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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 However it was financed, the couple’s apparent disdain for John Lewis-style décor may sit badly with ordinary people, for whom the store is a symbol of bourgeois prosperity. New York Times, "For U.K.’s Johnson, Plenty of Mud but Will It Stick?," 27 Apr. 2021 One of her early influences was the work of Robert Henri, a founder of the Ashcan School—a movement that challenged the bourgeois prettiness of the work of the American Impressionists. Hilton Als, The New Yorker, "Alice Neel’s Portraits of Difference," 19 Apr. 2021 Nemerov worries, too, about the possibility that bourgeois collectors found her subtle intimacies merely soothing. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "Helen Frankenthaler and the Messy Art of Life," 5 Apr. 2021 Now, Republican communicators are beginning to sound like the leaders of European parties whose anti-bourgeois romanticism often manifests itself in ugly ways. Matthew Continetti, National Review, "The Working-Class GOP: A Muddled Concept," 3 Apr. 2021 This high bourgeois city was totally flattened by Allied bombers late in World War II. Timothy O'grady, Condé Nast Traveler, "Sailing Croatia's Quiet Kornati Islands, a Place of Beauty and Resilience," 26 Mar. 2021 In almost any earlier left-wing political organization, Cason’s speech would have been written off as an expression of bourgeois individualism. Louis Menand, The New Yorker, "The Making of the New Left," 15 Mar. 2021 Baker’s runway conceit reveals the haut-bourgeois attitude that separates the classes in New York and throughout COVID America. Armond White, National Review, "Khaite FW21 — Sean Baker’s Fashion Week Faux Pas," 10 Mar. 2021 At the same time, he was drawn to the work of future Nobel laureate André Gide, who rebelled against bourgeois conventions and wrote of sensual fulfillment. Phil Davison, Washington Post, "Daniel Cordier, French Resistance hero, dies at 100," 23 Nov. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The revolution had prised France’s great art holdings out of the hands of the king and the aristocracy, so that in the 19th century collecting became a bourgeois affair. The Economist, "The tragedy of Jewish art collectors in pre-war Paris," 10 Apr. 2021 His collections offer all the bourgeois-at-play classics: buttery sheepskin bombers, clean-lined trench coats accented with leather collars and epaulets, blue jeans deftly tailored to defy seasonal trends. Kareem Rashed, Robb Report, "Walter Chiapponi, Tod’s New Creative Director, Is Bringing the Brand’s Light Touch to the Whole Wardrobe," 27 Mar. 2021 The era depicted by these writers is febrile and dreadful, bourgeois and revolutionary, fast-moving and footloose, a snapshot of modernity derailed. Toby Lichtig, WSJ, "‘The Passenger’ Review: No Exit," 26 Mar. 2021 Tables can be set in standard restaurant order, with tablecloths and wineglasses and napkins, conveying a slightly surreal feel of a Buñuel film, a normal bourgeois dining room placed right out in the cold. Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker, "A Brief Anatomy of Outdoor Dining," 20 Mar. 2021 Le bourgeois gentilhomme Suite was a delight through and through. Scott Cantrell, Dallas News, "A day late, elegant Mozart and Strauss from Fabio Luisi and the Dallas Symphony," 20 Feb. 2021 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

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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Last Updated

10 May 2021

Cite this Entry

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

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More Definitions for bourgeois



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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