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1707, "body of freemen in a French town; the French middle class," from French bourgeois, from Old French burgeis, borjois (12c.) "town dweller" (as distinct from "peasant"), from borc "town, village," from Frankish *burg "city" (see borough). Communist use for "the capitalist class generally" attested from 1886.
In general, the middle class. Applied to the Middle Ages, it refers to townspeople, who were neither nobles nor peasants. In Marxism it refers to those who control the means of production and do not live directly by the sale of their labor. Karl Marx distinguished between the “haute” (high) bourgeoisie (industrialists and financiers) and the “petite” (small or “petty”) bourgeoisie (shopkeepers, self-employed artisans, lawyers). Marxism postulates a fundamental conflict between the interests of the bourgeoisie and those of the propertyless workers, the proletariat.
Note: “Bourgeois” may also refer to mediocre taste or to the flashy display of wealth by the nouveau riche.