Barbarian/Barbarous/Barbaric

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AlexSantos

Senior Member
Portuguese - Brazil
Greetings everyone!

Recently, I've come across these 3 words in somewhat similar contexts. At first I thought the word barbarian could only be used as a noun whereas the other two would be the equivalent adjectives. However, a quick search on google showed me examples such as "Eighteen years ago a barbarian totalitarian regime came to an end." In which case, barbarian is being employed as an adjective, am I right? So what is the difference between these 3 words?
 
  • cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    At first I thought the word barbarian could only be used as a noun....
    Almost any noun can be used as an adjective in English simply by placing it before the noun (or noun phrase) it modifies.
    Essentially, the meaning of all three of your words is the same, but "barbarian" is the only one that can be used as a noun.The other two are by definition adjectives.
     

    AlexSantos

    Senior Member
    Portuguese - Brazil
    So, what you say is that as adjectives, Barbarian, Barbaric and Barbarous mean, in essence, the very same thing and may be used interchangeably regardless of the context.

    Thank you for clearing that up, Cyberpedant. :)
     

    cyberpedant

    Senior Member
    English USA, Northeast, NYC
    I wouldn't go so far as to say "may be used interchangeably regardless of the context." But I can't say off hand what that context might be.
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    "Eighteen years ago a barbarian totalitarian regime came to an end."
    This sounds wrong to me.
    Almost any noun can be used as an adjective,
    but if a suitable adjectival form exists, (I think) the noun is very unlikely to be used as an adjective.
    English has no adjective for "student", so we talk about a "student organization".
    But the noun "photograph" has its adjectival form in "photographic", so no one would talk about a :cross:"photograph image".
    I'm not saying "never use the noun 'barbarian' as an adjective",
    but keep in mind that "barbarian" refers to various warlike ethnic groups in history.
    So it collocates with "invasions", "hordes", "tribes", "warriors", etc.
    I don't think this sense of "barbarian" fits the "regime" mentioned above.
     

    KHS

    Senior Member
    So, what you say is that as adjectives, Barbarian, Barbaric and Barbarous mean, in essence, the very same thing and may be used interchangeably regardless of the context.

    Thank you for clearing that up, Cyberpedant. :)
    You can't use barbaric or barbarous as nouns (as cyberpedant mentions).
    And, though you can use barbarian as an adjective, it won't work in all cases. Compound nouns (with the first noun modifying the second) can be tricky.
    Barbarian hordes are hordes composed of barbarians (often used to describe the Mongol invasions).
    Barbaric hordes are hordes that act in a barbaric manner.
     
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    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    So, what you say is that as adjectives, Barbarian, Barbaric and Barbarous mean, in essence, the very same thing and may be used interchangeably regardless of the context.
    No.

    "The Barbarian attack left many dead." is not the same as "The barbarous attack left many dead."
    1862 Macmillan's Mag. Nov. 58 The announcement to one of the comedies of Plautus taken from the Greek, that ‘Philemo wrote what Plautus has adapted to the barbarian tongue’—i.e. Latin. is not the same as The announcement to one of the comedies of Plautus taken from the Greek, that ‘Philemo wrote what Plautus has adapted to the barbaric tongue’—i.e. Latin.
     

    AlexSantos

    Senior Member
    Portuguese - Brazil
    Thanks everyone for your answers.

    I'm currently in task of translating an abstract from Portuguese to English, and in Portuguese there's no such distinction between Barbarian/Barbabarous/Barbaric. The line in question reads as follows: Pluralism thus becomes a reality and often raises suspicion regarding the barbarian/barbarous/barbaric ones.

    The thing is, I wasn't granted access to the whole text to get the full picture, so I don't really know which word to pick. It seems the author is talking about the biased and preconceived attitude held by some people towards those who come from different social backgrounds. Which word would be best suited for this type of behavior? Would a native speaker call it a barbarous or a barbaric behavior? (barbarian doesn't seem to fit in here, since it's clear we're not talking about warlike tribes)
     

    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    You originally referred to a "barbaric [my choice] totalitarian regime" (whose behavior is compared figuratively to that of a barbarian tribe).
    But now you are talking about "suspicion regarding the barbarian/barbarous/barbaric ones".
    I am confused about who these "barbar..." people are, and who has the suspicion.
    Is "different social background" a way of referring to poverty or to an undervalued racial group?
    Are wealthy people suspicious toward poor people, or is a favored racial group suspicious toward a disfavored one?
    And is the author calling the disfavored group barbaric in earnest, or ironically (mocking the attitude of the privileged group)?
    My idea of suspicion is that A suspects B of doing some hidden activity.
    Who suspects whom of doing what?
     

    AlexSantos

    Senior Member
    Portuguese - Brazil
    I am about as clueless as you are. As I said before, I wasn't granted access to the whole text aside from one short paragraph. This paragraph basicaly states that pluralism is all but a façade created by society itself to avoid internal turmoil. Therefore, people who claim to be social relativists only behave as such because they feel the need to masquerade their true beliefs in order to mantain a healthy society by giving the minority groups a false sense of security.

    I'd say that the author (A) suspects the so-called barbarians (B) of desguising their true beliefs so that the poorest layers of society would not engage in uprisings and rebellions against the current government. My question is: Would a native speaker call this behavior a barbarian one, a barbarous one, a barbaric one or none of them?
     
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    Cenzontle

    Senior Member
    English, U.S.
    Through this discussion, I've come to believe that "barbarian" is okay as an adjective when you are referring literally to warlike tribes,
    but that "barbaric", or possibly "barbarous" are appropriate for figurative comparisons to the behavior of barbarian tribes.
    So I would recommend either the "-ic" word or the "-ous" word for your purpose. I'll have to think about the difference between them.
     

    PaulQ

    Banned
    UK
    English - England
    To me, barbaric is stronger than barbarous. Barbaric tends towards 'inhumane actions against individuals', whereas barbarous tends to be more general punitive or capricious actions and a general lack of civilised standards.
     
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