High on a throne of royal state, which far
    Outshone the wealth of Ormuz and of Ind,
    Or where the gorgeous East with richest hand
    Showers on her kings barbaric pearl and gold,
    Satan exalted sat, by merit raised
    To that bad eminence.

    Paradise Lost, Bk. II, 1667

Derived from the Greek word barbaros .The Romans applied this adjective to designate things foreign like Barbaricum aurum to describe gold from Asia and Barbaricoe were vestes, embroidered garments from foreign nations.

Synomyms would be uncivilized; coarse; savage; cruel ;brutal, cruel. Also primitive.

Barbaric has been applied to the customs, language, culture, etc., of unfamiliar people, ever since the 15th century and in particular individuals looked upon as backward or savage. For example

    the noble savage...turns out to be a barbaric creature with a club and scalping knife.
wrote British political scientist, economist, author, and lecturer H. J. Laski in 1920.

John Milton addresses barbaric pearl and gold in his prose cited above. Sometime during the 17th century onward,barbaric has also been used to describe aesthetically eye-catching objects seen, or brought from, abroad: Lawrence of Arabia, for instance, illustrates the rich and vivid garments of his Arabic companions as ‘splendid and barbaric’

Other sources show how the term has evolved becoming fractionally stronger than barbarous in concept over time:

    ” until fairly recently Italians were happy to consider kidnapping a barbaric Sardinian custom.
    -Economist, 1975.

In our day, however, the expression is related almost invariably to unacceptable social conduct in the vein of the hooliganism of sports events supporters; or atrocious crimes like rape, child abuse, kidnapping, murder.


Bloomsbury Thematic Dictionary of Quotations

The Pocket Oxford Dictionary of Current English, © Oxford University Press 1996


Bar*ba"ric (?), a. [L. barbaricus foreign, barbaric, Gr. .]


Of, or from, barbarian nations; foreign; -- often with reference to barbarous nations of east.

"Barbaric pearl and gold."



Of or pertaining to, or resembling, an uncivilized person or people; barbarous; barbarian; destitute of refinement.

"Wild, barbaric music."

Sir W. Scott.


© Webster 1913.

Originally noded mis-scanned as Barbaic. - Ed.

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