Barbarism (linguistics)

A barbarism is a non-standard word, expression or pronunciation in a language, particularly one regarded as an error in morphology, while a solecism is an error in syntax.[1] The label was originally applied to mixing Ancient Greek or Latin with other languages. It expanded to indicate any inappropriate words or expressions in classical studies, and eventually to any language considered unpolished or rude.[2] The term is used mainly for the written language. With no accepted technical meaning in modern linguistics, the term is little used by contemporary descriptive scientists.[3]


The word barbarism was originally used by the Greeks for foreign terms used in their language. ("Barbarism" is related to the word "barbarian"; the ideophone "bar-bar-bar" was the ancient Greek equivalent of modern English "blah-blah-blah", meant to sound like gibberish — hence the negative connotation of both barbarian and barbarism).[4][full citation needed]

The earliest use of the word in English to describe inappropriate usage was in the sixteenth century to refer to mixing other languages with Latin or Greek, especially in texts treating Classics.[2] By the seventeenth century barbarism had taken on a more general, less precise sense of unsuitable language. In The History of Philosophy, for example, Thomas Stanley declares, "Among the faults of speech is Barbarisme, a phrase not in use with the best persons, and Solecisme, a speech incoherently framed" [sic].[5] Hybrid words, which combine affixes or other elements borrowed from multiple languages, were sometimes decried as barbarism. Thus the authors of the Encyclopædia Metropolitana criticized the French word linguistique ("linguistics") as "more than ordinary barbarism, for the Latin substantive lingua is here combined, not merely with one, but with two Greek particles".[6] Such mixing is generally considered standard in contemporary English.[3]

Although barbarism has no precise technical definition, the term is still used in non-technical discussions of language use to describe a word or usage as incorrect or nonstandard.[3] Gallicisms (use of French words or idioms), Germanisms, Hispanisms, and so forth in English can be construed as examples of barbarisms, as can Anglicisms in other languages.[citation needed]

Other Languages
العربية: لفظ بربري
беларуская: Варварызм
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Барбарызм
català: Barbarisme
Чӑвашла: Варваризм
čeština: Barbarismus
dansk: Barbarisme
Deutsch: Barbarismus
eesti: Barbarism
Ελληνικά: Βαρβαρισμός
español: Barbarismo
euskara: Barbarismo
français: Barbarisme
italiano: Barbarismo
қазақша: Варваризм
Кыргызча: Варваризм
Latina: Barbarismus
latviešu: Barbarisms
lietuvių: Barbarizmas
magyar: Barbarizmus
македонски: Варваризми
Nederlands: Barbarisme
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Varvarizmlar
polski: Barbaryzm
português: Barbarismo
română: Barbarism
русский: Варваризм
svenska: Barbarism
татарча/tatarça: Варваризм
Türkçe: Barbarizm
українська: Варваризм