enfant terrible

noun en·fant ter·ri·ble \ äⁿ-fäⁿ-te-ˈrēblᵊ \

Definition of enfant terrible

plural enfants terribles play \äⁿ-fäⁿ-te-ˈrēblᵊ\
1 a :a child whose inopportune remarks cause embarrassment
b :a person known for shocking remarks or outrageous behavior
2 :a usually young and successful person who is strikingly unorthodox, innovative, or avant-garde

enfant terrible was our Word of the Day on 05/30/2011. Hear the podcast!

Examples of enfant terrible in a Sentence

  1. an author who reveled in his role as the enfant terrible of American letters

Recent Examples of enfant terrible from the Web

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

Did You Know?

Enfant terrible, which literally means "terrifying child" in French, sounds like something that might be uttered by a frazzled babysitter. Indeed, when English speakers first borrowed the term in the mid-19th century, it was used in reference to children - specifically, unpredictable children who blurted out outrageous remarks that embarrassed their elders. By the 1930s, the term had a broader application: an enfant terrible could be anyone - young or old - whose behavior shocked others. Now the term is also often applied to young, successful newcomers who shock or scare old-timers with their new approaches, easy successes, or disregard for tradition.

Origin and Etymology of enfant terrible

French, literally, terrifying child


ENFANT TERRIBLE Defined for English Language Learners

enfant terrible

noun

Definition of enfant terrible for English Language Learners

  • : a young and successful person who is sometimes shocking and does things in a way that is very different from normal


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to praise usually to excess

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