Rebarbative

macaqueRebarbative is a borrowing from French. I’ve decided to add it to my vocabulary because one can never have too many synonyms for ‘objectionable’, ‘repellent’ or ‘fearsome’.

The French word rébarbatif means ‘repellent’ or ‘disagreeable’, and it is derived from the Middle French word rebarber. Rebarber means ‘to oppose’ and itself derives from the Old French words re (meaning ‘back’ or ‘again’) and barbe (meaning ‘beard’). It is therefore thought to have the literal meaning of ‘to stand beard to beard against’.

The OED’s first listed usage is from 1892 but I like this example:

“Still, everyone appeared to be extremely nice, except that that Dr. Greenfield man was a trifle rebarbative. (This was a word which Toby had recently learnt at school and could not now conceive of doing without.)”

– Iris Murdoch, The Bell, 1958


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