Barbarian is a pejorative terms used to refer to a person who is perceived to be uncivilized. The word is often used either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization either viewed as inferior, or admired as a noble savage. In idiomatic or figurative usage, a "barbarian" may also be an individual reference to a brutal, cruel, warlike, insensitive person.
The term originates in the ancient Greek civilization, meaning "anyone who is not Greek", and thus was often used to refer to other civilized people, such as the people of the Persian Empire. Comparable notions are found in non-European civilizations.
The primary function of the word "barbarian", and its cognates, is to differentiate members of one's own society from people perceived as being outside of it, and to posit that one's own culture is superior. The word barbaros in Ancient Greek was an antonym for civis and polis. The sound of barbaros onomatopoetically evokes the image of babbling (a person speaking a non-Greek language).
The Greeks used the term as they encountered scores of different foreign cultures, including the Egyptians, Persians, Medes, Celts, Germans, Phoenicians, Etruscans and Carthaginians. In fact, it became a common term to refer to all foreigners. However in various occasions, the term was also used by Greeks, especially the Athenians, to deride other Greek tribes and states (such as Epirotes, Eleans, Macedonians and Aeolic-speakers) in a pejorative and politically motivated manner.