Bourgeois, bourgeoisie

The French loanword bourgeois works as both an adjective and a noun. Its main definition is of, relating to, or typical of the middle class, but it also works as a noun referring to a middle-class person. It often has negative connotations; as an adjective, bourgeois can be synonymous with conventional and conformist­, which are often meant negatively when applied to people.

Bourgeoisie, which is only a noun, is more general. It denotes the middle class as a whole, rather than just a middle-class person.

The words are usually pronounced in the French manner—boor-ZHWA and boor-zhwa-ZEE.


Bourgeois is usually an adjective, and it’s usually negative or at least slightly scornful—for example:

The liberals of San Francisco want to build a bourgeois republic wherein practically perfect people live aesthetic, ethical lives. [Telegraph]

Yes, I am fully aware of the fraught nature of complaining about the loss of a $400 stroller, one that epitomized privilege, and all that is loathsome about urban bourgeois parenting to begin with. [New York Times]

Canadians are so bourgeois, so unencumbered by any real problems, that they actually riot over entertainment. [CBC]

And bourgeoisie is always a noun—for example:

Significant sections of the Syrian population, including the bourgeoisie from the key cities of Damascus and Aleppo, have yet to shift sides. [Sydney Morning Herald]

If the bourgeoisie does start to protest, the party will be faced with an old dilemma: liberalise or step up repression. [The Economist]

3 thoughts on “Bourgeois, bourgeoisie”

  1. To stretch this post a little, you’d basically say that the proletariat is the working class, the bourgeoisie the middle class, and the capitalists the upper class?  I’m referring to when people use these terms in a negative way…

    Great post by the way! :)

    • If you read Marx, he describes the bourgeoisie as the capitalist class – there is no distinction. It is the bourgeoisie’s capitalist nature that creates the proletariat as the working class.

      •  To furthur clarify: Marx spoke at the time of newly industrialized England.  The rapid advancement vaulted them into a nasty situation where there was only a lower class (proletariat) and an upper class (bourgeoisie).  The upper class controlled the means of production (factories, stores, ships etc.) and the lower class, without government regulation or unionization, had to work in dangerous factories for barely enough to feed themselves.  Marx though the bourgeois class to be ever decreasing to the point where its logical conclusion would be a few people controlling a massive % of the money and everyone else sharing the remainder. 

        So theoretically Bourgeois should refer to those who are deeply invested.  In a modern sense the bourgeoisie are the Mitt Romneys who pay 15% tax despite making tens of millions investing.


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