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
4 : lacking complex or advanced culture : uncivilized a savage country



Definition of savage (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : 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 Not until last week’s four-game losing streak, in which the Yankees scored nine runs while getting swept in a three-game series at Oakland, were these savage beasts tamed. Mike Digiovanna, Los Angeles Times, "Yankees mirror Dodgers in offensive approach, swag and T-shirt-worthy nicknames," 24 Aug. 2019 Prior to radio, before television, savage winters spent indoors turned many German-Americans into excellent wood-carvers. Allan Gurganus, The New Yorker, "The Wish for a Good Young Country Doctor," 27 Apr. 2020 But no one has been able to fully explain the savage mutilations and sometimes bizarre details that characterized many of the killings. Seth Harp, Harper's Magazine, "In Harm’s Way," 27 Apr. 2020 As savage as people can be about women’s appearances behind anonymous screens, most of us understand where true beauty lies. Shalwah Evans, Essence, "25 Beauty Memes And Quotes That'll Make You Feel Like A Badass," 27 Apr. 2020 There’s another negative side to pushing our bodies to do these often savage workouts. Rosie Gizauskas,, "The Dangerous Pressure To Have A Lockdown Glow-Up," 21 Apr. 2020 The tales unfold with a wild, almost savage intensity, which contemporary readers found disturbing; infamously, Kleist’s hero Goethe dismissed the younger writer as diseased. Dana Snitzky, Longreads, "This Week In Books: The New Lord and Lady of the Apartment," 21 Apr. 2020 While Trump has acknowledged the peak in fatalities is still weeks away, the virus is already taking a savage toll in New York. Eliza Mackintosh, CNN, "What you need to know about coronavirus on Monday, March 30," 30 Mar. 2020 The stock market rose during the briefing after a savage drop Monday. Lisa Mascaro, Anchorage Daily News, "White House shows support for proposal to send checks to Americans to boost economy," 17 Mar. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Noun For many, though, the enduring image from this savage, backyard-brawl game was a horrific injury. Eric Branch,, "Top 49ers games of past decade: Seahawks, Saints and Jimmy Garoppolo," 2 Apr. 2020 Not long after his arrival, he’s beaten in a savage hate crime in Washington state. Michael Schaub, Los Angeles Times, "Review: A dark corner of California’s migrant history, illuminated in a debut novel," 23 Apr. 2020 Baartaman’s case, her large butt and dark skin made her the object of fascination by Europeans who painted her as a savage and freak show for profit. Mikeisha Vaughn, Essence, "What The Apple Bottoms Reemergence Means For Black Women," 2 Apr. 2020 In a boxing match, a fighter's corner can throw a towel into the ring to stop a fight and save their fighter from a savage beating. Cincinnati Enquirer, "Xavier basketball's comeback bid falls short in the final minute at Providence," 5 Mar. 2020 Savage, before savage became a part of our mainstream lexicon. Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY, "For Taylor Swift's 30th birthday, a definitive ranking of her 30 best lyrics," 13 Dec. 2019 Tim Parlatore, lawyer for Eddie Gallagher, agreed with the observation about savages and choirboys. Susan Katz Keating, Washington Examiner, "'They want us to be choirboys': Special operations troops mock order to behave," 31 Jan. 2020 Then lower the tip to let the bait perform a short swan dive--and don't be surprised by a savage hit after that little up-down move. John Merwin, Field & Stream, "Senko Tactics: Catch Huge Spring Bass Wacky-Style or Weighted," 22 May 2019 That means any crack in this geologic pressure cooker can produce a savage, speedy decompression event. Robin George Andrews, National Geographic, "Why the New Zealand volcano eruption caught the world by surprise," 9 Dec. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb 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, "Two Coasts. One Virus. How New York Suffered Nearly 10 Times the Number of Deaths as California.," 16 May 2020 Boeing, Home Depot, American Express, JPMorgan Chase, and Walt Disney — most of which have been savaged by the public health restrictions — had big days on the Dow as optimism over the stimulus took hold. Rachel Siegeland Thomas Heath,, "US stocks surge on hopes that a stimulus deal is imminent," 24 Mar. 2020 The rust fungus has savaged coffee plants throughout the Americas, prompting price hikes and pushing impoverished farmers to migrate. Esther Horvath, National Geographic, "When ‘wash your hands’ was controversial," 11 Mar. 2020 The two men have sparred, but not savaged each other, in previous debates. Glenn Thrush,, "For Biden and Sanders, the fight’s not personal," 15 Mar. 2020 When Mount Vesuvius unleashed its fury in A.D. 79, Herculaneum was just one of several towns smothered by ash and savaged by superheated volcanic avalanches. National Geographic, "Vesuvius eruption baked some people to death—and turned one brain to glass," 23 Jan. 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, "Pandemic Journal," 21 Apr. 2020 There was something personal about the EF-4 tornado that savaged his city in 2011. Michael Casagrande |, al, "How Nick Saban views his role helping during coronavirus crisis," 3 Apr. 2020 Democrats savaged each other during last night’s presidential debate, but their attacks mostly stopped when the moderators shifted to a 15-minute discussion on climate change. Adam Aton, Scientific American, "Climate Change Sparked Note of Consensus in Raucous Democratic Debate," 20 Feb. 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

23 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Savage.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 4 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for savage


How to pronounce Savage (audio)

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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More from Merriam-Webster on savage

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for savage

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with savage

Spanish Central: Translation of savage

Nglish: Translation of savage for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of savage for Arabic Speakers

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