savage

1 of 3

adjective

sav·​age ˈsa-vij How to pronounce savage (audio)
1
a
: not domesticated or under human control : untamed
savage beasts
b
: lacking the restraints normal to civilized human beings : fierce, ferocious
a savage criminal
2
: wild, uncultivated
seldom have I seen such savage sceneryDouglas Carruthers
3
a
: boorish, rude
the savage bad manners of most motoristsM. P. O'Connor
b
4
old-fashioned + offensive : lacking complex or advanced culture : uncivilized
savagely adverb
savageness noun

savage

2 of 3

noun

plural savages
1
old-fashioned + offensive : a person belonging to a primitive society
2
: a brutal person
3
: a rude or unmannerly person

savage

3 of 3

verb

savaged; savaging

transitive verb

: to attack or treat brutally
Choose the Right Synonym for savage

fierce, ferocious, barbarous, savage, cruel mean showing fury or malignity in looks or actions.

fierce applies to humans and animals that inspire terror because of their wild and menacing aspect or fury in attack.

fierce warriors

ferocious implies extreme fierceness and unrestrained violence and brutality.

a ferocious dog

barbarous implies a ferocity or mercilessness regarded as unworthy of civilized people.

barbarous treatment of prisoners

savage implies the absence of inhibitions restraining civilized people filled with rage, lust, or other violent passion.

a savage criminal

cruel implies indifference to suffering and even positive pleasure in inflicting it.

the cruel jokes of schoolboys

Examples of savage in a Sentence

Adjective He was the victim of a savage attack. The coast was lashed by savage storms. He wrote savage satires about people he didn't like. Noun What kind of savage could have committed such a terrible crime? what kind of savage would hurt a baby? Verb He looked like he'd been savaged by a wild animal. A hurricane savaged the city. The newspapers savaged his reputation.
Recent Examples on the Web
Adjective
As savage Arctic cold was getting ready to surge south across North America, vivid imagery based on data from weather models showed us what was going to happen. Tom Yulsman, Discover Magazine, 27 Dec. 2022 The 2023 grand marshal is former Arizona Democratic congresswoman Gabby Giffords, gravely wounded in a savage mass shooting in 2011 that also killed six people. Los Angeles Times, 27 Dec. 2022 See all Example Sentences for savage 

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word '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

Etymology

Adjective

Middle English, from Anglo-French salvage, savage, from Late Latin salvaticus, alteration of Latin silvaticus of the woods, wild, from silva wood, forest

First Known Use

Adjective

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1a

Noun

1578, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1880, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of savage was in the 13th century

Dictionary Entries Near savage

Cite this Entry

“Savage.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/savage. Accessed 22 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

savage

1 of 2 adjective
sav·​age ˈsav-ij How to pronounce savage (audio)
1
: not tamed
savage beasts
2
: very cruel and unrestrained
a savage beating
3
: not cultivated : wild
the savage wilderness
4
offensive : not civilized
savage customs
5
: very critical or harsh
savagely adverb
savageness noun

savage

2 of 2 noun
1
offensive : a person belonging to a group with a low level of civilization
2
: a brutal person
Etymology

Adjective

Middle English savage "untamed, wild," from early French salvage, savage, (same meaning), from Latin salvaticus, an altered form of earlier silvaticus "of the woods, wild," from silva "woods, forest"

Word Origin
In Latin the adjective silvaticus, a derivative of silva, "forest," meant "growing or living in the forest." Because forest life is wild, the adjective easily acquired the meaning "wild, uncultivated" in later Latin as well as in the spoken Latin of the declining Roman Empire. Medieval French inherited silvaticus, altered to salvaticus, as salvage or sauvage, which was borrowed into Middle English. Medieval French sauvage retained the source meanings "wild, uncultivated (of fruit)" and "untamed (of animals)." But it could also be applied to humans, in which case its meanings could range from "lacking civilization, barbarous" to "fierce, cruel." English savage has had all these senses at some point in its history.

Biographical Definition

Savage

biographical name

Sav·​age ˈsa-vij How to pronounce Savage (audio)
Michael Joseph 1872–1940 prime minister of New Zealand (1935–40)

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