From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
          This article is of interest to the following WikiProjects:
WikiProject Greece (Rated Start-class, High-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Greece, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of Greece on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
Start-Class article Start  This article has been rated as Start-Class on the project's quality scale.
 High  This article has been rated as High-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Classical Greece and Rome (Rated C-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is part of the WikiProject for Classical Greece and Rome, a group of contributors who write Wikipedia's Classics articles. If you would like to join the WikiProject or learn how to contribute, please see our project page. If you need assistance from a classicist, please see our talk page.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Mid  This article has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject Sociology (Rated C-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject Sociology, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of sociology on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Mid  This article has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.
WikiProject China (Rated C-class, Mid-importance)
WikiProject icon This article is within the scope of WikiProject China, a collaborative effort to improve the coverage of China related articles on Wikipedia. If you would like to participate, please visit the project page, where you can join the discussion and see a list of open tasks.
C-Class article C  This article has been rated as C-Class on the project's quality scale.
 Mid  This article has been rated as Mid-importance on the project's importance scale.

supposed "beginning of Orientalism"[edit]

'This clearly implies an equality: both Hellenes and barbarians are capable of producing "great and marvelous works" and both are deserving of being remembered. Nevertheless, in the wake of this victory, Greeks began to see themselves as superior militarily, politically, and culturally. A stereotype developed in which hardy Greeks live as free men in city-states where politics are a communal possession, whereas among the womanish barbarians everyone beneath the Great King is no better than his slave. This marks the birth of the cultural view termed "orientalism."'

Never mind the reasons why the Greeks were wrong about their own sense of self worth, but the birth of orientalism? I reeeaaally don't think so. What about the Celtic, Germanic and Slavic people of Western Europe? Surely you couldn't describe the Greek view of those people as orientalist. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:27, 28 July 2009 (UTC)

Please note[edit]

It is very hard to write an article on barbarians without NPOV disputes. 18:56, 6 June 2007 (UTC)


I don't know if that is a real word, but I doubt it...

Also: the entire paragraph reads like

—The preceding unsigned comment was added by (talk) 10:10, 6 March 2007 (UTC).


I wonder about the NPOVness of this article. Was it written by someone qualified in anthropology? Michael Hardy 22:49 Mar 17, 2003 (UTC)

It's not so much a question here of anthropology as of history and etymology - the article accurately reflects the development of the term and its historical usage. Maybe it needs to include something on the revival of the "barbarian" in Twentieth-Century heroic fantasy for the sake of completeness though. What are you having NPOV problems with? Rüdiger

Parasites of Civilization[edit]

im sorry but saying that it is 'non perjorative' to call a buncch of people 'parasites of civilization' is patently stupid. who wrote this garbage? pretending that it is npov is even stupider.

civilization is often a parasite of the 'barbaians', if you consider history, for example the african slave trade, or the way raw materials are often extracted from poor countries by the wealthy by force

A more careful reader of the entry will see that the contrast is between "barbarian" and "nomad," and that the term "parasite" is being used in its narrowest, most specific sense, not as a pejorative tarbrush. General critiques of civilization might be more useful in entries like Power politics. --Wetman 17:06, 19 Nov 2004 (UTC)
This article seriously SHOULD be purged of the stupidity. 'Barbarian' is nothing more than a derogatory term used by the greeks and romans, to signify those they considdered less 'civilised. Most, and in fact I would go so far as to claim all, civilisations indicated by the Romans as 'barbarian' were NOT 'parasites' off of civilisation, but self sufficient communities of farmers. Some of the most valued commodities available in Rome, Terra Cotta for instance, were 'barbarian' products. Robrecht 3 July 2005 15:07 (UTC)
(Not a post contributed by a reader of the article, it appears. --Wetman 21:22, 26 August 2005 (UTC))

Yeah, seeing as how more urban and advanced civilisations than the Greeks were referred to as barbarian by the Greeks, I certainly wouldn't make that claim. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:22, 28 July 2009 (UTC)


When I first read the Periplus of the Erythraean Sea, I was struck by the fact that several regions of Africa were labelled as "Barbaria". While it can be shown that this is simply an early form of the more familiar Berbers -- & is clearly a homonym with its own different origins -- I have to wonder how the phonetic clash of these two nouns influenced the popularity in Classical times of the word "Barbarian" over its probable competitors. I'd add something to the article about this, but I'm unaware of any linguistic work on this probable connection.

The modern translation linked from the Wikipedia article employs the phrase in Ch. ii "country of the Berbers". "Berber" is a Greek-derived term, not what the Berber people have called themselves (autonym), and its direct connection to "barbarian" in the specific, narrowly Hellenic sense is pretty generally agreed upon and always referred to in any general discussion of Berbers. --Wetman 21:22, 26 August 2005 (UTC)

I will be very short. Term "Barbarian" was Afro-Semitic, also Jewish, Roman and Greek (Hellenic) word for Aryans from the north. Mocking from them "VarvARYANS, Barbaryans - white race. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:11, 21 September 2010 (UTC)

Chinese words for "barbarians"[edit]

I earlier added information about the Chinese words for 'barbarian' because as it stood the reference was too vague. However, there is reason to question the identification of the Chinese words with the Greek word 'barbarian'. It is a little like the traditional equating of the Western and Oriental dragons or Western and Oriental phoenixes -- it's not clear that they are exactly the same thing. Perhaps an article on the Chinese concept of 'barbarians' is in order.

Bathrobe 17:27, 26 August 2005 (UTC)

Not identical, of course, because nothing ever is. But comparable, and a worthwhile addition quite germane to the subject. Like most Wikipedia readers, I have no idea what the specific, literal meanings would be. Can Bathrobe parse the Chinese expressions for the article? I mean, what are their absolutely literal meanings: "outsider" "not a villager" etc etc) --Wetman 21:22, 26 August 2005 (UTC)

Dubious Greeks and Semites" assertion[edit]

This seems like a personal fantasy:

"Barbarian was originally a Greek term applied to Semitic peoples such as Jews, Arabians, or North Africans speaking Semitic languages wherein consonants are frequently seperated by the broad "a" sound. Mocking the way the languages sounded, the Greeks started referring to the Semites as "βαρβαρoι" pronounced "varvarroy" (singular "βαρβαρoς" pronounced "varvarrōs") The term gradually began to be used in regard to all foreigners as the Greeks mocked the alleged attempts by outsiders to speak a "real" language."

I wouldn't want to stigmatize this as irresponsible drivel. Is it very widely agreed upon? --Wetman 10:52, 8 October 2005 (UTC) porno noobs — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 10:23, 17 July 2012 (UTC)

Removing, exanding 1st paragraph[edit]

Barbarian was originally a Greek term applied to any foreigner, one not sharing a recognized culture or language with the speaker or writer employing the term. The word expressed with mocking duplication ("bar-bar") alleged attempts by outsiders to speak a "real" language. A "barbarism" in language, especially Greek or Latin, is a misformed word, such as a solecism or a malapropism. Related terms are barbaric and barbarous.

I'm replacing this - which seems a bit off the mark - with some longwinded rambling on the earlier Greek uses of the term. I'll put some refs up tomorrow. Sorry about that dubious second heading.

Maybe an analogy could be made between Roman and Chinese uses of words to refer to unconquered/unconquerable peoples on the other side of the border. Flounderer 14:13, 24 October 2005 (UTC)


The 1941 German invasion of Russia was called Operation Barbarrossa; Barbarrossa was a German king otherwise known as "red beard" barbar rossa so barbarians are people with beards. R.Kyle.

R. Kyle: that's not likely. There was indeed a Latin word barba, "beard" (from PIE *bhardha-, "beard") but barbarian derives from Ancient Greek barbaros, "barbarian", and it is recorded that bar-bar (cf. PIE *baba-, a form imitative of unarticulated or indistinct speech) was an expression that ancient Greeks used to deride the speech of non-Greeks. And since beards were actually standard among adult male ancient Greeks (as opposed to beardlessness being the standard among Romans), the "beard" explanation doesn't make sense. Alexander 007 00:37, 10 January 2006 (UTC)


"Savage" redirects to this page, but there is almost no discussion on this page of the notion of savagery, which is more a product of Western Europe and Christian thought. Ok to add it to this page, or should savage have its own page proper? (Ethan Mitchell, forgetting to sign in 14:55, 2 March 2006 (UTC))

Savage derives, via French, from the Latin silvaticus = "forest-dwelling". In its fundamental sense, the term has nothing to do with the modern (Christian or otherwise) moral concept of "savagery", but merely describes the most primitive human cultures with which the ancient Romans had contact—probably nomadic hunter-gatherers of the European forests. All English (and French, and Latin) words are the products of Western Europe.
The modern sense of savage, with its connotations of viciousness, bloodthirstiness, cruelty, etc., presumably derives from the impressions of civilized (i.e., "city-dwelling") people of the conduct of such forest-dwellers, which naturally would mostly have come from episodes of conflict. The semantic development of this word is analogous to that of barbarian (and also, though in the opposite direction, to that of civilized, gentle, and probably others I can't think of right now). In an academic setting such as Wikipedia, it's especially important to keep that whole development in mind, and not to forget that the original, technical meanings of these terms are still salient, and, in an academic or scientific context, carry no connotation of moral judgment or of superiority or inferiority among different cultures.
An ancient Greek or Roman might well have regarded the forest-dwellers as barbarians, since they didn't speak Greek (or Latin); but the terms barbarian and savage are not synonymous, and there were many barbarian peoples who were not savages. It seems to me that they should have separate articles.

Jdcrutch (talk) 16:17, 16 April 2013 (UTC)

Barbarians = Germanic tribes.[edit]

The term Barbarian in Western civilization goes back to ancient Greece and Rome. In ancient Rome, and as a result in Latin countries, the term Barbarian was and is especially linked to the North of Europe and to the Germanic and Celtic tribes that inhabited it. The amount of the article devoted to this point is a clear violation of NPVO.

Bruce wright I'm not sure what your point is. There is too much of the article that doesn't refer to the usuage you mention? I was about to add "Celtic" peoples to the list of those considered "barbarians" and then began to think about whether "Germanic" fit at all. The latter term is, I think, later than Greek usuage. So I would like to hear a bit more about the subject. For the moment I added "Celtic" since there were clear references to the "Keltoi" by Greek classical authors. In looking at other pages related to "Germanic" I have really begun to wonder about the issue of when the term "Germanic" arose. Is there Greek usuage of the term prior to its use in later Roman times? I hope someone can help with this.

Lewis Henry Morgan[edit]

I added a link to the Wikipedia article on Lewis Henry Morgan, who, in his Ancient Society, defined three major stages of human evolution. His terminology and assumptions are not now scientifically accepted, but furnish insight into the non-pejorative use of the terms "savage" and "barbarian".

- About the latin origin: Barbarus can also mean "Born in a foreign country" (?)

No. Another mistaken etymology, from barba was moved to Notes: the reference appended to it was actually concerned with explaining it was spurious. --Wetman 20:28, 25 July 2006 (UTC)


This article needs a discussion of barbarians and ethnicity ("ethnogenesis"). There is a substantial amount of racist and nationalistic scholarship on the web and on Wikipedia surrounding the ethnicity of "barbarians" (Goths, Huns, Anglo-Saxons, etc..) and their connections with modern day peoples and nations (Modern Turks in particular about the Huns and German romantic notions about the Goths are rife throughout Wikipedia). I started a sub-section about the barbarian ethnicity question at ethnogenesis but I think it needs a longer treatment, either here or in a new article. -- Stbalbach 13:48, 18 November 2006 (UTC)


I have started an RfC on the usage of the term Barbarian at wikipedia. Please leave your opinion on this matter HERE<< link. - WeniWidiWiki 19:32, 19 January 2007 (UTC)


This article cites almost no sources. There are plenty of citations of usage of the term, "barbarian", but this is not tantamount to supporting statements with documented sources as specified in the policy page: Wikipedia:Verifiability. The etymology section, for example, proposes a certain derivation of the term that I have encountered before, but could be mere speculation for all I know. Erickroh 15:21, 27 January 2007 (UTC)

Result of RfC[edit]

There was recently a RfC regarding the proper use of the word "barbarian." Arguments were made arguing for the word to not be used, and also arguing that it is appropriate to use the word. The consensus of the discussion was as follows:

Use specific tribe/nation names whenever possible. When this is not possible, use the word "barbarian," - making every effort to place the word in the proper historical context.

This is not an official wikipedia policy, guideline, or recommendation - it is a consensus reached by editors of this page in conversation with uninvolved 3rd parties. While an RfC is not binding, it would help avoid edit warring and further conflicts if all involved can stay relatively close to this guideline, and discuss any variation from it. Pastordavid 23:43, 27 January 2007 (UTC)

origion of term[edit]

I guess bar-bar-ian comes not from a simplistic bar-bar of foreginers (I know no other example of such a way of calling foreigners according to some 'mis-sounds'), rather it comes from the word varos/varius which might had a greek double perfect: var-var-os/ var-var-ius, which could happen in ancient greek, meaning "different". The Greek letter B (Beta) could have been pronounced also like a V, like the phoenician letter the greeks borrowed from.

Article is a Farce[edit]

Hi, the article on the word Barbarian is comical. I think it may have been a joke, but people looking for a good article on the term Barbarians and Barbarism are out of luck currently. Is there anyway to go back to the old version of the article, if there was a factual one. Thanks.

Something more like this may be more to his taste.--Wetman 03:10, 9 May 2007 (UTC)

Barbarians and the Berbers of North Africa[edit]

There is a historical link to the name of the Berbers and the Greco-Roman term Barbarian. Some of the most notorious Barbarians were the Germanic tribes. They were such a plague to the settled world that part of them - the Vandals - became synonimous with the word Barbarian. After their long, violent and destructive migration through Europe, the Vandals finally settled in North Africa. Hence the name Barbaria (Berberia) - land of the Barbarians.

The descendants of the Germanic Barbarians can best be seen in present English football hooliganism or in the behaviour of hordes of Germanic speaking Westerners while on cheap holidays in the South of Europe.

The sports hooliganism and improper conduct while on vacation is all Celtic people. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 01:06, 31 December 2013 (UTC)

Latin origin[edit]

In the second section it says tat the latin Barbaria came from the latin Barbarius. How can that be? Wardhog 18:58, 6 June 2007 (UTC)

pejorative terms and their denotations[edit]

Although people can certainly say that terms like 'barbarian', 'primitive', and 'savage' were applied very politically and cruelly to general groups of people as stereotypes, they imply an actual meaning, which doesn't even necessarily have negative connotations, except by the interpretation of the reader. For instance there have been tribes that have been called 'primitive', but that itself may not even be seen as an insult or a problem, since the culture of many groups often involves a conscious attempt to stay close to nature, and use minimal (or 'primitive') amount of development (i'm sure nomads could have lived in cities if they had the will to do so). Europeans used 'savage' to describe their own actions sometimes (in war) as much as they sometimes referred to people as savages (which I believe is derived from the fact that nature is considered a 'savage' (untamed) environment in which to live especially if one isn't accustomed--although was adopted into a pejorative to suggest as much that the people fit in with the nature of the environment (and sometimes they did)).

As far as 'barbarian' goes, the connotations have definitely taken over the meaning of the term, but it also does have a specific meaning, and even the second definition in the article isn't always meant as a pejorative as the article claims. For example, the word 'barbarism' had entered philosophical discourse, where Hegel criticized other philosophers for using 'barbarisms'--or classifications which were based on cutting things up crudely, rather than based on a sense of order created by internal necessity. 'Civilization' though is often used as a positive term, more plainly referred to the type of societies that were characterized by being centered around cities, though I don't think that was the most important feature. I think, for instance you could argue that no nation today constitutes a 'civilization' that the term feels anachronistic in that sense, although 'civilization' still can refer to an area of settlement as opposed to non-settlement. The model for the term civilization is societies in antiquity whose culture and institutions centered around a mythos, which is what led them to being independent as cultures and led to them clashing. 'Barbarians' as the Greeks referred to them typically I think picked up a lot of the stereotypes they did because the societies they were referring to weren't as much based on the type of institutions greeks saw as purposeful.

Of course, the cruelty to all of these terms is stereotypes and the fact that they prevent a deeper understanding of different cultures. But in all of this, we shouldn't forget the reason words have certain currency and use in language. First of all, I think this leads us to an equally unfair view of those who use these terms as those who they were applied to. The greek people may have been wrong to have this certain arrogance, but they had it for their own reasons, just like other cultures behaved as they did for their own reasons. Also, its not necessarily productive that when anyone uses the term civilization or barbarian to start lecturing them. Believe it or not, its not a common belief anymore that everyone who isn't in Western culture is a stupid savage, so you're really talking past people who aren't intending to use the words that way.


Significant Barbarian History and Role in Human Development[edit]

The main historical significance of the article "Barbarian" has been utterly dodged, or else ignored. There is no mention of the horrendous contribution of the Barbarian. It goes as thus: Rome declined when barbarian hordes overran western Europe, which caused the whole Western intellectual world to collapse. The writings and text of Greek intellectuals were destroyed, or lost. And there was nothing to fill the void and thus took centuries for another intellectual rising to occur. Meanwhile the Christianization of Europe took place to fill this void, along with the literal interpretation of the Bible; the coming of judgement day; and the second coming of Christ. For Christians (i.e. Barbarians), there was no longer any interest in secular knowledge, and the desire to investigate natural phenomenon dissappeared. This is an account of the greatest intellectual darkness in history which had swept over the Christian world. It wasn't until the twelfth century that a revival of Aristotelian thought had emerged, and as a result, Aristolelian thought had become welded with Christian theology-- That to doubt one part, was to doubt the whole. Then came Roger Bacon (1214-1292) and later Copernicus (1473-1543) who contributed heavily to the elimination of this newly developed interest of the Christian which set human intellect back several centuries and still continues to this day. Finally, to determine whether or not Conan was a cool Barbarian is not fully realized until we know of his true past. I'm a new member and this is my first post. Thanks. --Funbangers 19:29, 23 September 2007 (UTC)

Seems like a pretty simplified view of the barbarians and Christianity. I presume that Socrates, who was on a mission from God in his own words, was a secular thinker? Just one of the many oddities I find in your message... Srnec 04:57, 5 October 2007 (UTC)
Thanks for the reply. But yes, very simple, indeed. One of the key roles barbarians had in human history was revolutionary, or perhaps, de-evolutionary for NPOV reasons, in the early intellectual climate of human beings. Socrates own words? Socrates God wasn't a Christian... nor even a literal interpretion or reflection of man (now that would be absurd). I'm curious about the other oddities you've found too. Also, what really happened back then? Thanks Funbangers 16:30, 19 October 2007 (UTC)

Sanskrit barbara. related, not loan?[edit]

is there a source that it is a "Related imitative form" of the Greek βαρβαρος? because i have reliable sources that say it is a loan from the Indo-Greek times. Whoever put there or supports the related imitative form thing should bring his source here because i'm justifiably going to remove it and put the sourced part in. --CuteHappyBrute (talk) 12:06, 5 December 2008 (UTC) Monier Williams (a Sanskrit Dictionary) gives as source Kathasaritsagara and Mahabharata. These are both in their present form classical, i.e. post-hellenistic texts. This would corroborate the loan hypothesis. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:35, 13 March 2009 (UTC)


Why is Tarzan classed as a barbarian? It seems a little strange, considering that he was meant to fit the noble savage heroic archetype. Anyone? -- (talk) 17:17, 24 November 2009 (UTC)

Where is Tarzan classed as a barbarian?--Wetman (talk) 18:19, 24 November 2009 (UTC)
The section Modern Popular Culture starts off "The modern sympathetic admiration for such fantasy barbarians as Tarzan". Munci (talk) 20:46, 24 November 2009 (UTC)

Gallic Wars[edit]

I believe there should be a summary of, and a link to, Caesar's Gallic Wars included in the article. I believe I am not experienced enough to do this, but I think there should be a paragraph describing how it had an impact on the French and British tribes. Starwarsgeek133 (talk) 21:55, 4 October 2010 (UTC)

Barbaric behaviour. Savage behaviour[edit]

There's a lot of semantics going on here.

Clearly it would be possible to be a barbarian within behaving barbarically. Or to be a savage without behaving savagely.

There are also levels of being a 'barbarian' - at one extreme folk 'almost like us' and at the far extreme humans who live(d) virtually as wild animals uneducated, unsophistacated and childlike - true savages.

A barbarian thus might in one sense mean little more than that a person speaks a different language.

Another sense however is someone who is ignorant of civilsation and is happy, ideed desires, to smash it. And does. Genghis Khan would be a good example.

Modern polical correctness and multi-culturalism tends to encourage the portrayal of savages and barbarians as merely 'differently civilised'.

Sometimes this may be true, in other cases however the stereotypical, brutal, mercurial, superstitious, ignorant and warlike savage or barbarian is probably nearer the truth.

White lynch mobs in the 19th/20th century USA were widely denounced for 'behaving like savages'. Native Americans who tortured and killed their captives however actually were savages, since their 'culture' presumably did not denounce such behaviour but accepted it as 'normal'. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:40, 17 January 2011 (UTC)


I have organized the "barbarian" articles into Barbarian, Barbarian (Western cultures), and Barbarian (East Asian cultures). Barbarian (East Asian cultures) was previously under a Chinese name for the term, but the article was on all of East Asia, so I moved the article title to better represent the content.--Quicktool (talk) 03:33, 21 January 2011 (UTC)

The Barbarian East Asian cultures article is moving back to the original name. Benjwong (talk) 05:26, 31 January 2011 (UTC)
The Barbarian (Western cultures) article also seems to be an unnecessary fork of the "Barbarian" article; after all, "barbarian" is ultimately a Western cultural concept: it's best to keep it together, in context, here in this article. Dcattell (talk) 18:59, 19 September 2011 (UTC)

OR tagging[edit]

Don't see any discussion above matching tag. Not useful as is without pointing out the offending text. Lycurgus (talk) 18:32, 14 May 2011 (UTC)

Politically Correct & linguistically wrong[edit]

Some recent edits to this article and others (see Talk:Donghu people) added Christopher Beckwith's hypothesis that Chinese had no word meaning "barbarian". He presents it in "The Barbarians" epilogue to Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present (2009, 320-362). One review summarizes Beckwith's argument, "In short, the term “barbarian” is inappropriate for any Central Eurasian group – and probably for any human group – other than in its original Greek meaning: people who did not speak Greek. Furthermore, the Chinese had no equivalent term, though to be sure they had many terms for foreigners and many of them are pejorative." Beckwith's idealistic premise is based on two false linguistic assumptions.

Humpty-Dumpty semantics "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less." Beckwith says, "In sum, the word barbarian embodies a complex European cultural construct, a generic pejorative term for a 'powerful foreigner with uncouth, uncivilized, nonurban culture who was militarily skilled and somewhat heroic, but inclines to violence and cruelty' – yet not a 'savage' or a 'wild man'" (p. 360).

"No word for X" Beckwith claims: "There was and is no word or expression in Chinese equivalent to the Western term and concept of the barbarian" (p. 354). "The Chinese, however, have still not yet borrowed Greek barbar-. There is also no single native word for "foreigner", no matter how pejorative, which includes the complex of the notions 'inability to speak Chinese', 'militarily skilled', 'fierce/cruel to enemies', and 'non-Chinese in culture'" (p. 358). Beckwith takes an extreme all-the-dictionaries-are-wrong denial. He admits that Chinese-English dictionaries will define "two dozen or so partly generic words [giving examples of hu 胡, yi 夷, and man 蠻 as] 'a kind of barbarian'," yet concludes "Chinese has no generic word equivalent to barbarian, or indeed any one word that is even close to it" (pp. 358-9).

The current Barbarian article mentions this "non-Greek" etymology, but casts doubt on Beckwith's hypothesis with interwikis in 44 languages – including Chinese 蛮族 (Manzu "barbarian tribes") that gives foreign and Chinese examples. If one looks up "barbarian" in English-Chinese dictionaries, there is no shortage (let alone absence) of Chinese translation equivalents. The OED definition of barbarian includes "3.c Applied by the Chinese contemptuously to foreigners", and cites the Treaty of Tientsin that prohibits using the Chinese word "Yi" 夷 "barbarian" for the British.

Some questions are:

  • How should Wikipedia present Beckwith's barbarian prescriptivism?
  • Has it been published in any peer-reviewed journals?
  • Does it verge upon WP:FRINGE?

Any opinions would be welcome. Keahapana (talk) 01:29, 27 September 2011 (UTC)

Beckwith is an academic publishing by way of a university press, which—as long he's properly attributed—makes him a perfectly valid source for our purposes here. At Wikipedia we only report and do not present the truth, whatever it may be. In fact, I note that the review you link to appears to agree with Beckwith. :bloodofox: (talk) 01:47, 27 September 2011 (UTC)

2007 RfC and beyond[edit]

In as much as I can see that the translation of the proper names of multiple ethnic or other social groups into English language Wikipedia articles has a vast potential to result in multiple, more-or-less parallel debates, in the Talk pages of numerous articles, many of which have begun this process and many more of which have the potential; and, whereas this does indeed have the potential to fill many hours of Wikipedians time on a vast number of articles; and, whereas I finally got around to reading the 2007 RfC on this issue (now closed): it seems fair to suggest that the summary:

Use specific tribe/nation names whenever possible. When this is not possible, use the word "barbarian," - making every effort to place the word in the proper historical context.

indeed has merit, however it seems that this does not go far enough. It seems:

  • added to and included in this should be the concept that the word tribe or "tribes" shares a similar current and historical misuse as "barbarians". It is not a neutral point of view but instead is a factual distortion to refer to a khaganate, an empire, or a complex confederation as a tribe (other than, perhaps, in a very technical sense as in the classification of Native Americans by the United States government). Examples include what seems to be a rather widespread habit of referring to the Mongol Empire and the Tibetan Empire as along the lines of "raiding tribal peoples" and "barbarian nomads" (typical of many articles related to Chinese history); and, in another example, calling the Ostrogoths an East Germanic tribe, despite their or their ancestors participation in "a huge empire called Oium". Many other general terms besides "tribe" and "barbarian" are available, such as "social groups", "people", or, "political entity"; again, it is preferable to use the more precise term applicable within the context, such as "empire", "confederacy", or, "ethnicity". Or, if it's not known, say it's not known: knowing what is known or not itself has encyclopedic value.
  • this issue of nomenclature/translation from non-English languages may need to be addressed on a higher policy level, at least on English language Wikipedia. The alternative seems to be prolonged, repetitive and tedious dispute on page after page -- with the same probable eventual results as produced in the seeming group unity achieved by the participants of the the 2007 RfC referred to above, which will then be repeatedly revived for further rounds of discussion on this or other articles (for example, the articles on the Dongyi and Donghu) people).
  • it should be understood that putting quotes around a word, for example "barbarian", does not automatically place the usage of the term into context, rather the quotation marks serve as a warning sign to cast doubt in the mind of the general reader on the accuracy or value of using that particular term in that particular context.

Thank you to all the participants in the 2007 "Barbarian" RfC for setting a good example for the future.

Dcattell (talk) 19:37, 27 September 2011 (UTC)

Yes, and thank you for pointing out this RfC summary of opinions. In what it calls the "proper historical context", these originally derogatory Chinese ethnonyms are accurately translated "barbarian" in English. NCI#Ethnic and national identities says, "Avoid outdated terms when referring to present-day people. However, historic terms can be appropriate when describing historic usage, or in description of past eras." Outdated pejorative names are historically different from modern racial slurs. WP guidelines refer to words currently considered offensive like Eskimo; Dongyi is a historical term from thousands of years ago.
There's an interesting subset of Chinese characters that were ethnic insults, many written using the 豸 "beast" and 犬 "dog radicals". Ethnic politics and language reforms in the PRC have systematically purged these historical "barbarian" slurs for minorities. The Yi people were originally called Luoluo 猓猓, which is considered derogatory when written with the "dog radical", but not 倮倮 with the "human radical". The Zhuang people were first written 獞 with "dog", then 僮 with "human", and now with another word zhuang 壮 meaning "sturdy; strong". Wa (Japan) is a well-documented example. The Chinese and Japanese originally wrote "Japan" with Chinese Wo/Japanese Wa 倭, meaning something like "dwarf barbarian", which the Japanese eventually changed to He/Wa 和 "harmony". Numerous reliable sources discuss Chinese pejorative logographic ethnonyms, and there is no reason for Wikipedia to avoid this topic. In fact, here's an idea. Would you like to collaborate on a new section of Barbarian or a new article about pejorative Chinese characters? You seem to be interested in this topic and I have some good refs about it. Keahapana (talk) 03:54, 29 September 2011 (UTC)

Unreliable source?[edit]

K. C. Wu is engaging in some creative "character etymologizing" or "character splitting" based on modern logographs, which is often undependable because it overlooks oracle and bronze graphs. The early graphs for da 大 pictured a person with arms outstretched ("big"), the 一 "one" in the modern graphs simplifies the arms. The oracle graphs for yi 夷, which depicted a prone body, were interchangeable with shi 尸 "corpse"; noted under Shi (personator). The bronze graphs for 夷 pictured either "man" and "arrow" or something wound around an "arrow" (Karlgren, Grammata Serica Recensa). The seal graphs for 夷 simply showed a person with a bow. Let me know if you need some reliable sources about these "barbaric" characters. Keahapana (talk) 03:39, 29 September 2011 (UTC)

So, what about the case of the character 胡 (Hu), as in Donghu): is 胡 always a pejorative term , which refers to a type of barbarian? Are we going to say that 東胡/东胡 thus means "Eastern Barbarian(s)", and that 胡錦濤/胡锦涛 refers to the "Barbarian(s) of Glorious Billowing", and also that 胡佳 translates to the "Barbarian(s) of Distinction"? Dcattell (talk) 22:09, 13 November 2011 (UTC)
Always? Good joke. Meanings, or course, depend on contexts. English "barbarian" translations only apply to historical exonym Hu, not the modern surname. Hu Jia doesn't mean "Barbarian(s) of Distinction" any more than Barbara Boxer means "Barbarianess of Pugilism." FYI, I've almost finished adding references, will start one more cultural/racial section, and balance the Beckwith POV. Please make any corrections or improvements you like. Best wishes, Keahapana (talk) 20:58, 14 November 2011 (UTC)

graphic typo[edit]

The picture depicting the names of barbarians east of China calls those in the east "Western barbarians" incorrectly. Additionally the picture is messy--this notion of making the font move in a circular fashion is horrible. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 04:35, 22 October 2011 (UTC)


I've removed the book list which was in the "References" section, as it wasn't clear what specific connection the books had with the subject: the book details are now pasted here, in case anyone wants to re-ad them in a more relevant style.

~dom Kaos~ (talk) 16:05, 9 December 2011 (UTC)


It is interesting to note how the "barbaros" part of the origin of the term is listed in the article. however, there is no mention of the "arian" part. Look up the Arians, they were the germanic peoples who invaded Rome. they were christian, but of a different sect. so the Roman-Catholics described them as savage, pagan and "barabarian". thats why its called Barb-ARIAN; the catholics merely rewrote history on their own terms as the Romans has done so many times before. (talk) 20:20, 14 February 2012 (UTC)


The definition of the word 'Barbarian' is disputed linguistically for its actual origin. The Greeks did not use it to denote and mean uncivilised as this article suggests. To the Greeks anyone that did not speak Greek was referred to as barbarian, but where todays use of that word originated from Barbaros is debatable. The term Barbarian could have derived from the 'Berber' People of north Africa ( ) — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:52, 24 March 2012 (UTC)


[2] ([3]) - [4] ([5]) - [6] ([7], [8]) - [9] ([10], [11], [12], [13], [14]) - [15] ([16], [17]) - CA means Canada for me.

Dubious: Barbara as a Pejorative Name[edit]

The article, under "Slavery in Greece", asserts,

The female given name "Barbara" originally meant "a barbarian woman", and as such was likely to have had a pejorative meaning—given that most such women in Graeco-Roman society were of a low social status (often being slaves).

The assertion, that "Barbara" was likely to have a pejorative meaning, is unsupported by any citation to authority, and seems speculative at best. I can't cite any counter-authority at the moment (or I would simply revise the article), but it seems most unlikely that many parents (enough to fix "Barbara" as an accepted given name) would choose a pejorative name for their daughter. Cf. Wikipedia's own article on the name. It seems at least as likely that, e.g., the name "Barbara" was originally given to the daughters of a man called Barbarus, either as a cognomen or as a nickname (cf. Roman naming conventions for females); or that it orignated as the descriptive appellation given to some notable woman of barbarian origin (cf. la Schiavona, el Greco), after whom parents named their daughters as a tribute.

Given that the great majority of persons in Graeco-Roman society were of low social status (and, as often as not, slaves), and that all women were of low social status, relative to the males of their respective classes, the article's logic would essentially make any feminine name pejorative—a manifestly absurd proposition.

Incidentally, names are not biological beings and cannot be female or male; they have gender, not sex, and therefore can be only masculine, feminine, or neuter. Also, the quoted passage misuses "as such" to mean "so", or "that being the case". I haven't corrected these solecisms because I think the sentence needs to be replaced entirely.

Jdcrutch (talk) 16:09, 1 April 2013 (UTC)

Original Research: Speculation on significance of given name Barbara[edit]

See previous talk section regarding the given name Barbara. The entire last paragraph of the article's section "Slavery in Greece" is speculative and unsupported by citation (except for the fact that St. Barbara's martyrdom has been removed from the Roman Catholic church's ecclesiastical calendar). Jdcrutch (talk) 16:30, 1 April 2013 (UTC)

Be clear on the etymology[edit] mid-14c., from Medieval Latin barbarinus (source of Old French barbarin "Berber, pagan, Saracen, barbarian"), from Latin barbaria "foreign country," from Greek barbaros "foreign, strange, ignorant," from PIE root *barbar- echoic of unintelligible speech of foreigners (compare Sanskrit barbara- "stammering," also "non-Aryan," Latin balbus "stammering," Czech blblati "to stammer").

Greek barbaroi (n.) meant "all that are not Greek," but especially the Medes and Persians. Originally not entirely pejorative, its sense darkened after the Persian wars. The Romans (technically themselves barbaroi) took up the word and applied it to tribes or nations which had no Greek or Roman accomplishments. The noun is from late 14c., "person speaking a language different from one's own," also (c. 1400) "native of the Barbary coast;" meaning "rude, wild person" is from 1610s. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 17:15, 10 December 2015 (UTC)