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bizarre

[bih-zahr] /bɪˈzɑr/
adjective
1.
markedly unusual in appearance, style, or general character and often involving incongruous or unexpected elements; outrageously or whimsically strange; odd:
bizarre clothing; bizarre behavior.
Origin
1640-1650
1640-50; < French < Italian bizzarro lively, capricious, eccentric, first attested (circa 1300) in sense “irascible”; of disputed orig.
Related forms
bizarrely, adverb
bizarreness, noun
Can be confused
bazaar, bizarre.
Synonym Study
Bizarre, fantastic, grotesque, weird share a sense of deviation from what is normal or expected. Bizarre means markedly unusual or extraordinarily strange, sometimes whimsically so: bizarre costumes for Mardi Gras; bizarre behavior. Fantastic suggests a wild lack of restraint, a fancifulness so extreme as to lose touch with reality: a fantastic scheme for a series of space cities. In informal use, fantastic often means simply “exceptionally good”: a fantastic meal. Grotesque implies shocking distortion or incongruity, sometimes ludicrous, more often pitiful or tragic: a grotesque mixture of human and animal features; grotesque contrast between the forced smile and sad eyes: a gnarled tree suggesting the figure of a grotesque human being. Weird refers to that which is mysterious and apparently outside natural law, hence supernatural or uncanny: the weird adventures of a group lost in the jungle; a weird and ghostly apparition. Informally, weird means “very strange”: weird and wacky costumes; weird sense of humor.
Word story
Strange, but true: bizarre is a word with a contested and murky background.
For a long time, it was conjectured that bizarre is of Basque origin, coming from the word bizarra, meaning “beard.” This same word supposedly passed into Spanish and Portuguese as bizarro, with the meaning “handsome” or “brave” (one imagines in the belief that a man with a beard was endowed with those qualities). From there it was thought to have been adopted by the French, who liked the word but apparently did not attribute the same heroic qualities to the bearded man. In French, bizarre means “odd.”
Recently, a more likely etymology has gained ground—rather than from Spanish, the French word is thought to have come from bizarro, an Italian word meaning “angry, choleric,” and which originally meant “brave, soldier-like.” Now, this still means that we have to get from a word meaning “angry” to one meaning “odd,” but it is, perhaps, a less bizarre journey.
Related Quotations
“Good evening. I'm Mr. Mike, inviting you to come with me into a world where the bizarre is commonplace and the commonplace bizarre.“
—Michael O'Donoghue as Mr. Mike in the 1979 movie Mr. Mike's Mondo Video, imdb.com (1979)
“No matter how calmly you try to referee, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behavior, and I'm not talking about the kids. Their behavior is always normal.“
—Bill Cosby, Fatherhood (1987)
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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Examples from the web for bizarre
  • To modern eyes this was a strange household, one that exhibited a mosaic of bizarre relationships.
  • Back down in the valley bottom, we could hear bizarre noises.
  • The beautiful, the charming and the downright bizarre all have their place in the collection.
  • The author recalls a bizarre childhood during which she and her siblings were constantly on the move.
  • The author is absolutely correct about one thing - quibbling over an encyclopaedia is simply bizarre.
  • Nothing like a bizarre-looking sea "monster" to draw crowds to a tony resort town.
  • Sutures have a long and bizarre history, dating back to ancient Egypt .
  • He was given to a bizarre kind of fun in high spirits, and occasionally to real gayety.
  • The results of such dreams are comical and bizarre word formations.
  • Every faith has its baggage, and every faith holds beliefs that will seem bizarre to outsiders.
British Dictionary definitions for bizarre

bizarre

/bɪˈzɑː/
adjective
1.
odd or unusual, esp in an interesting or amusing way
Derived Forms
bizarrely, adverb
bizarreness, noun
Word Origin
C17: from French: from Italian bizzarro capricious, of uncertain origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for bizarre
adj.

1640s, from French bizarre "odd, fantastic" (16c.), originally "handsome, brave," perhaps from Basque bizar "a beard" (the notion being of bearded Spanish soldiers making a strange impression on the French); alternative etymology traces it to Italian bizarro "angry, fierce, irascible," from bizza "fit of anger."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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