1. uncivilized; wild; savage; crude.
  2. savagely cruel or harsh: The prisoners of war were given barbarous treatment.
  3. full of harsh sounds; noisy; discordant: an evening of wild and barbarous music.
  4. not conforming to classical standards or accepted usage, as language.
  5. foreign; alien.
  6. (among ancient Greeks) designating a person or thing of non-Greek origin.


  1. uncivilized; primitive
  2. brutal or cruel
  3. lacking refinement

c.1400, “uncivilized, uncultured, ignorant,” from Latin barbarus, from Greek barbaros (see barbarian). Meaning “not Greek or Latin” (of words or language) is from c.1500; that of “savagely cruel” is from 1580s.

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