enfant terrible

noun
en·fant ter·ri·ble | \äⁿ-fäⁿ-te-ˈrēblᵊ \
plural enfants terribles\äⁿ-fäⁿ-te-ˈrēblᵊ \

Definition of enfant terrible 

1a : 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

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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.

Examples of enfant terrible in a Sentence

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

Recent Examples on the Web

Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceutical industry's enfant terrible, was sentenced Friday to seven years in prison, putting an end to a saga that captivated and sometimes enraged Washington, Wall Street and the tabloids. Bloomberg, latimes.com, "Martin Shkreli sentenced to seven years in prison," 9 Mar. 2018 Aficianados of extremist journalism will recognize the name of Hahn, the whose wild and incredibly lengthy tirades on immigration issues at Breitbart made her an enfant terrible nearly as prominent as Miller himself. Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, "Trump’s Immigration Chaos: Incompetence or Deliberate Trolling?," 27 June 2018 Sometime in the mid-1940s, Hollywood enfant terrible Orson Welles discovered an old cabin while exploring the Big Sur coast with his pal, the actor Joseph Cotten. Wallace Baine, San Francisco Chronicle, "Why did Old Hollywood celebs love Big Sur so much?," 31 May 2018 In 2007, Prefontaine moved to Seattle to create Slayer Espresso, the all-American enfant terrible of the coffee world, known for its big-impact designs and even bigger-impact price tags. Todd Plummer, Vogue, "What Do You Get From a $35,000 Espresso Machine?," 29 May 2018 The manager was already shaping up to be English football's latest enfant terrible, a precocious talent with an insatiable hunger for success on his own terms. SI.com, "Why Everton Will Be Marco Silva's Last Chance at Premier League Success After Ugly Watford Split," 17 May 2018 The plot’s aristocratic pedigree was both celebrated and upended by horticulture’s enfant terrible, Christopher Lloyd, who was born in the house in 1921 and died in 2006. Amy Merrick, WSJ, "5 Lessons From the Punk Rockers of Gardening," 26 Apr. 2018 Alexander McQueen, fashion’s incorrigible enfant terrible, presented his Dante collection in London at Christ Church Spitalfields; its encore in New York was at the Angel Orensanz Center, a former synagogue. Vogue, "Take Me to Church: 21 Times Designers Put on Shows in Holy Places," 24 Apr. 2018 Martin Shkreli burst on the scene as an enfant terrible, a securities savant who was working on Wall Street at 17, set up his own hedge fund at 23, and launched the biotech company Retrophin Inc. after teaching himself biology. Bloomberg, latimes.com, "Martin Shkreli’s journey from pharma executive to inmate No. 87850-053," 9 Mar. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of enfant terrible

1851, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

History and Etymology for enfant terrible

French, literally, terrifying child

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Last Updated

24 Sep 2018

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The first known use of enfant terrible was in 1851

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More Definitions for enfant terrible

enfant terrible

noun

English Language Learners Definition of enfant terrible

: 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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