markedly unusual in appearance, style, or general character and often involving incongruous or unexpected elements; outrageously or whimsically strange; odd: bizarre clothing; bizarre behavior. Synonyms: weird, freakish, grotesque; fantastic; unusual, strange, odd.
Origin: Related forms
1640–50; < French < Italian bizzarro lively, capricious, eccentric, first attested (circa 1300) in sense “irascible”; of disputed orig.
Can be confused: bazaar
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.
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.
—Bizarre: A Canadian sketch comedy television series that aired from 1980–1985 in Canada, and in the U.S. on the cable channel Showtime.
—Bizarre Creations: A video game developer, based in Liverpool, England, and known for games like Blur (2010), James Bond 007: Blood Stone (2010), and the Project Gotham Racing series. The name Bizarre Creations came about in 1994 when the then nameless company needed a temporary name and chose “Weird Concepts.” A staff member later used Microsoft Word's Thesaurus on the name, which came up with “Bizarre Creations.”
—Mondo Bizarro: A 1966 faux travelogue that mixes often shocking documentary and mockumentary footage. The film is a successor to the 1963 film Mondo Cane, originator of the exploitation documentary genre.
—Mondo Bizarro: The name of the twelfth studio album by the New York punk band The Ramones. Released in 1992.
—Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern: A television travel show that follows host Andrew Zimmern around the world as he tastes unusual local food. First aired in 2007 on the Travel Channel.
“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)