Word Origin & History
c.1300, "foreign lands" (especially non-Christian lands), from L. barbaria (see barbarian
). Meaning "Saracens living in coastal North Africa" is attested from 1590s, via Fr. (O.Fr. barbarie), from Arabic Barbar, Berber, ancient Arabic name for the inhabitants of N.Africa
beyond Egypt. Perhaps a native name, perhaps an Arabic word, from barbara "to babble confusedly," but this might be ultimately from Gk. barbaria. "The actual relations (if any) of the Arabic and Gr[eek] words cannot be settled; but in European langs. barbaria, Barbarie, Barbary, have from the first been treated as identical with L. barbaria, Byzantine Gr[eek] barbaria land of barbarians" [OED].