noble savage


: a mythic conception of people belonging to non-European cultures as having innate natural simplicity and virtue uncorrupted by European civilization
also : a person exemplifying this conception

Examples of noble savage in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The curtain was ornately embroidered with images of bears, onion domes, and noble savages untainted by logic. Jennifer Wilson, The New Yorker, 24 July 2023 Native Americans have long been depicted in Hollywood films and television projects as either bloodthirsty barbarians or noble savages. Marlow Stern, Rolling Stone, 9 June 2023 This palpable connection yields highly intimate moments, while jettisoning the cliché of the noble savage by underscoring the acute awareness this community has of its political context, environmental issues and new ways of confronting these realities provided by technology and mass media. Emiliano Granada, Variety, 29 May 2023 To romanticize the lost past is to risk another form of exoticization, casting Indigenous peoples as beatifically wise ancients — the archetype of the noble savage — and thus depriving them of dimension and a stake in modernity. New York Times, 17 Feb. 2022 Rather the novel presents Tarzan as Rousseau’s unspoiled child of nature, a literally noble savage free from the vices and corruption associated with advanced industrial society. Washington Post, 19 Aug. 2020 In this sense, he is cast as a modernizer, turning noble savages into solid citizens. James Marcus, The New Yorker, 1 June 2020 Whereas the book’s white characters are nuanced, Indian characters are reduced to dangerous adversaries or noble savages. Elena Nicolaou,, 24 Aug. 2019 That’s the only yeti to be found in the script, except obliquely, perhaps, in its endorsement of Rousseau’s concept of the noble savage. Margaret Gray,, 7 June 2019 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'noble savage.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use

1670, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of noble savage was in 1670

Dictionary Entries Near noble savage

Cite this Entry

“Noble savage.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 25 Sep. 2023.

More from Merriam-Webster on noble savage

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!