Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Barbarian. The Gk. barbaros, probably formed as an imitation of an unintelligible foreign language, originally meant one who could not speak Greek. From the Persian wars onwards the Greeks came to contrast their superior civilisation with that of foreigners and to use the term with a certain contemptuous sense. After the conquests of Alexander the Great it was only uncivilised races who could not speak Greek, and the term therefore became equivalent to savage. Mr. Matthew Arnold used the word to characterise the youth of the English upper classes, fond of sport and open-air life, but hardly tinctured by literary culture.