Bizarre was borrowed into English from French in the middle of the 17th century. The current sense of odd or fantastic has been with us since the word was introduced into English. It had that meaning in French as well, although previously in French it had the meaning of brave or like a soldier.

Where the French picked up the word is somewhat unclear. In Spanish and Portugeuse, bizarro means handsome or brave and is clearly related to the French in some way, although the French word appears before the Spanish one, so it is unlikely that the French picked up the word from Spanish. Instead, it probably comes from Italian, where bizzarro means angry, and has a root, bizza, meaning fit of anger.

There is a commonly touted etymology for bizarre that claims the word is originally from the Basque bizzarra, meaning beard. This explanation is not well supported by evidence.

Bizarre is unrelated to bazaar, which is from the Persian bazar, meaning marketplace.

(Sources: Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Edition; Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories)

Powered by ExpressionEngine
Copyright 1997-2019, by David Wilton