sav·​age | \ ˈsa-vij How to pronounce savage (audio) \

Definition of savage

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1a : 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 scenery— Douglas Carruthers
3a : boorish, rude the savage bad manners of most motorists— M. P. O'Connor
b : malicious
4 old-fashioned + offensive : lacking complex or advanced culture : uncivilized


plural savages

Definition of savage (Entry 2 of 4)

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


savaged; savaging

Definition of savage (Entry 3 of 4)

transitive verb

: to attack or treat brutally


biographical name
Sav·​age | \ ˈsa-vij How to pronounce Savage (audio) \

Definition of Savage (Entry 4 of 4)

Michael Joseph 1872–1940 prime minister of New Zealand (1935–40)

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Other Words from savage


savagely adverb
savageness noun

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.
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Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective On Thursday, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazilians once again witnessed the horrific and savage consequences of that approach, one that strongly echoes that of Filipino strongman Rogerio Duterte. David Miranda, Time, 8 May 2021 The wide shot of Chris Jericho going off the top of the cage was savage. Alfred Konuwa, Forbes, 6 May 2021 The ozone layer protects life on Earth from the savage effects of ultraviolet radiation by absorbing it. Alice Gorman, CNN, 8 May 2021 The most savage moment comes in the Chicago subway, when Omni-Man grabs Invincible by the head and charges through a subway train, ripping people apart with his son’s flailing limbs. Oliver Sava, Vulture, 1 May 2021 Although this savage legal provision was never enforced, when Oregon joined the Union in 1859, the state constitution prohibited black people from moving there. Brian Smale, Smithsonian Magazine, 22 Apr. 2021 In one of the more savage ironies of history, some two decades later the authors themselves were tried by such courts under Josef Stalin and sentenced to death. Gerard Baker, WSJ, 19 Apr. 2021 Maybe so back then, but this current group is hardly savage, especially from those entrusted to hit second, third and fourth on most days. Larry Fleisher, Forbes, 19 Apr. 2021 The group has a reputation for being particularly savage and is known for massacres, killing civilians, leaving body parts in public places and posting killings on the internet. Cnn Editorial Research, CNN, 12 Apr. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun Along with other airlines, United received government funds to prop up employee salaries during the savage downturn, including a $3.5 billion grant and a $1.5 billion loan. NBC News, 3 June 2021 Several other front pages focused on perhaps the most savage of Cummings’ claims: that the huge scale of lives lost in Britain could have been prevented. Washington Post, 27 May 2021 This ends with a savage, dark joke about assaulting disabled veterans. Andy Hoglund,, 16 May 2021 The result is a car that feels less savage than Aston's other V-12-powered models but with cleaner low-speed throttle response and significantly improved traction. Mike Duff, Car and Driver, 25 May 2021 The other instigates savage word wars among the highly advantaged. David Brooks, Star Tribune, 16 May 2021 Was this another Roman hyperbole meant to paint the Britons in a savage light, or is there some truth to it? Anne Thériault, Longreads, 14 May 2021 At least symbolically, space, the final frontier, is sometimes presented as a savage land in need of humanity’s beneficent influence. Adam Mann, The New Yorker, 11 May 2021 The Underground Railroad depicts both the savage reality of American slavery and the danger of escaping it. Jamil Smith, Rolling Stone, 4 May 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb On Twitter, the outgoing president frequently leveraged his more than 88 million followers to savage his rivals, boost allies, and sometimes spread falsehoods on a viral scale. Author: Tony Romm, Josh Dawsey, Anchorage Daily News, 10 Jan. 2021 In the months after the pandemic started to savage the economy in March, consumer bankruptcy filings in South Florida trailed the numbers filed in 2019. David Lyons,, 21 Dec. 2020 At Maryland, punter Wade Lees watched Knight savage his teammates and realized upon transferring to UCLA a few years later that the Bruins could use that sort of ferociousness. Ben Bolch, Los Angeles Times, 19 Nov. 2020 The sometimes savage themes of her paintings have been interpreted as expressions of wrathful catharsis. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, 28 Sep. 2020 There is no need to savage the opposing view on Facebook. Chris Jones,, 16 Sep. 2020 Among the world’s last island nations to remain officially virus-free is the Pacific archipelago, Vanuatu, that was just savaged by a cyclone. Dan Chiasson, The New York Review of Books, 15 May 2020 The debate included some of the fiercest exchanges of the Democratic primary, with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders savaging Mr. Bloomberg’s wealth and the workplace environment at his company. Ken Thomas, WSJ, 20 Feb. 2020 He’d been publicly savaged for days for not closing the city’s school system, and even his own Health Department was in revolt at his inaction. Joaquin Sapien, ProPublica, 16 May 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'savage.' 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 savage


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


1578, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1880, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for savage


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

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Time Traveler for savage

Time Traveler

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

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Statistics for savage

Last Updated

7 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Savage.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 14 Jun. 2021.

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More Definitions for savage



English Language Learners Definition of savage

 (Entry 1 of 3)

of an animal : not under human control
: very cruel or violent
: very critical or harsh



English Language Learners Definition of savage (Entry 2 of 3)

old-fashioned + offensive : a person who has a way of life that is simple and not highly advanced
: a person who is very violent or cruel



English Language Learners Definition of savage (Entry 3 of 3)

: to attack or treat (someone or something) in a very cruel, violent, or harsh way


sav·​age | \ ˈsa-vij How to pronounce savage (audio) \

Kids Definition of savage

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : not tamed : wild savage beasts
2 : being cruel and brutal : fierce a savage attack

Other Words from savage

savagely adverb They fought savagely.



Kids Definition of savage (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : a person belonging to a group with a low level of civilization
2 : a cruel or violent person


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