enfant terrible

noun
en·​fant ter·​ri·​ble | \ äⁿ-fäⁿ-te-ˈrēblᵊ How to pronounce enfant terrible (audio) \
plural enfants terribles\ äⁿ-​fäⁿ-​te-​ˈrēblᵊ How to pronounce enfant terrible (audio) \

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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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 Architecture's enfant terrible Odile Decq is known for her distinct style inspired by punk and goth, a result of her spending time in London in the early 1980s. Dobrina Zhekova, Travel + Leisure, 28 Oct. 2021 In the summer of 2004, Hoffman, who had recently founded LinkedIn, and Sean Parker, the Silicon Valley enfant terrible, introduced Thiel to Mark Zuckerberg, who was looking for a major investor in Facebook, then a site for college students. Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker, 11 Aug. 2021 In the summer of 2004, Hoffman, who had recently founded LinkedIn, and Sean Parker, the Silicon Valley enfant terrible, introduced Thiel to Mark Zuckerberg, who was looking for a major investor in Facebook, then a site for college students. Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker, 11 Aug. 2021 In the summer of 2004, Hoffman, who had recently founded LinkedIn, and Sean Parker, the Silicon Valley enfant terrible, introduced Thiel to Mark Zuckerberg, who was looking for a major investor in Facebook, then a site for college students. Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker, 11 Aug. 2021 In the summer of 2004, Hoffman, who had recently founded LinkedIn, and Sean Parker, the Silicon Valley enfant terrible, introduced Thiel to Mark Zuckerberg, who was looking for a major investor in Facebook, then a site for college students. Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker, 11 Aug. 2021 In the summer of 2004, Hoffman, who had recently founded LinkedIn, and Sean Parker, the Silicon Valley enfant terrible, introduced Thiel to Mark Zuckerberg, who was looking for a major investor in Facebook, then a site for college students. Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker, 11 Aug. 2021 In the summer of 2004, Hoffman, who had recently founded LinkedIn, and Sean Parker, the Silicon Valley enfant terrible, introduced Thiel to Mark Zuckerberg, who was looking for a major investor in Facebook, then a site for college students. Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker, 11 Aug. 2021 In the summer of 2004, Hoffman, who had recently founded LinkedIn, and Sean Parker, the Silicon Valley enfant terrible, introduced Thiel to Mark Zuckerberg, who was looking for a major investor in Facebook, then a site for college students. Margaret Talbot, The New Yorker, 11 Aug. 2021

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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The first known use of enfant terrible was in 1851

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Dictionary Entries Near enfant terrible

enfants perdus

enfant terrible

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Last Updated

15 Nov 2021

Cite this Entry

“Enfant terrible.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/enfant%20terrible. Accessed 9 Dec. 2021.

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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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