Archived Discussion

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From YKTTW Working Title: Beard of Barbarism

The very word 'barbarian' is derived from the greek word for 'beard'.

No, it doesn't.

1338, from M.L. barbarinus, from L. barbaria "foreign country," from Gk. barbaros "foreign, strange, ignorant," from PIE base *barbar- echoic of unintelligible speech of foreigners (cf. Skt. barbara- "stammering," also "non-Aryan"). Barbaric is first recorded 1490, from O.Fr. barbarique, from L. barbaricus "foreign, strange, outlandish." Barbarous is first attested 1526.

The word "barbarian" comes into English from Medieval Latin barbarinus, from Latin barbaria, from Latin barbarus, from the ancient Greek word άρ αρος (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.

reply: There are a lot of etymologies for "barbarian", and one of the most popular ones is the beard one, meaning that even if that's not really what barbarian comes from (the real answer is nobody knows), the popular association exists.

reply: It is true, however, that "barbarian" derived from Latin "barba" has been a popular folk etymoology. (Greek for "beard" would seem to be "geni.")