- Date: 15th century
- 2 : an idea, act, or expression that in form or use offends against contemporary standards of good taste or acceptability
The word "'barbarian'" comes into English from Medieval Latin barbarinus, from Latin barbaria, from Latin barbarus, from the ancient Greek word βάρβαρος (bárbaros). The word is onomatopoeic, the bar-bar representing the impression of random hubbub produced by hearing a spoken language that one cannot understand, similar to blah blah and babble in modern English. Related imitative forms are found in other Indo-European languages, such as Sanskrit बर्बर barbara-, "stammering" or "curly-haired". The earliest attested form of the word is the Mycenaean Greek pa-pa-ro, written in Linear B syllabic script. Depending on its use, the term "barbarian" either described a foreign individual or tribe whose first language was not Greek or a Greek individual or tribe speaking Greek crudely.
The Greeks used the term as they encountered scores of different foreign cultures, including the Egyptians, Persians, Celts, Germans, Phoenicians, Etruscans, and Carthaginians. It, in fact, became a common term to refer to all foreigners. However in various occasions, the term was also used by Greeks, especially the Athenians, to deride other Greek tribes and states (such as Epirotes, Eleans and Aeolic-speakers) in a pejorative and politically motivated manner. Of course, the term also carried a cultural dimension to its dual meaning. The verb βαρβαρίζειν (barbarízein) in ancient Greek meant imitating the linguistic sounds non-Greeks made or making grammatical errors in Greek.