The Modern French word bourgeois derived from the
Old French burgeis (walled city), which derived from bourg (
market town), from the
Old Frankish burg (town); in other European languages, the etymologic derivations are the
Middle English burgeis, the
Middle Dutch burgher, the German Bürger, the
burgess, and the Polish burżuazja, which occasionally is synonymous with the
In English, "bourgeoisie" (a French citizen-class) identified a social class oriented to
economic materialism and
hedonism, and to upholding the extreme political and economic interests of the capitalist ruling class.
 In the 18th century, before the
French Revolution (1789–99), in the French
feudal order, the masculine and feminine terms bourgeois and bourgeoise identified the rich men and women who were members of the urban and rural
Third Estate – the common people of the French realm, who violently deposed the
absolute monarchy of the
Louis XVI (r. 1774–91), his clergy, and his
aristocrats. Hence, since the 19th century, the term "bourgeoisie" usually is politically and sociologically synonymous with the ruling upper class of a capitalist society.
Historically, the medieval French word bourgeois denoted the inhabitants of the bourgs (walled market-towns), the
merchants, and others, who constituted "the bourgeoisie", they were the socio-economic class between the peasants and the landlords, between the
workers and the owners of the
means of production. As the economic managers of the (raw) materials, the goods, and the services, and thus the
capital (money) produced by the feudal economy, the term "bourgeoisie" evolved to also denote the middle class – the businessmen and businesswomen who accumulated, administered, and controlled the capital that made possible the development of the bourgs into cities.
Contemporarily, the terms "bourgeoisie" and "bourgeois" (noun) identify the ruling class in capitalist societies, as a social stratum; while "bourgeois" (adjective / noun modifier) describes the Weltanschauung (
worldview) of men and women whose way of thinking is socially and culturally determined by their economic materialism and
philistinism, a social identity famously mocked in
Le Bourgeois gentilhomme (1670), which satirises buying the trappings of a noble-birth identity as the means of climbing the social ladder.
 The 18th century saw a partial rehabilitation of bourgeois values in genres such as the drame bourgeois (bourgeois drama) and "
The 16th-century German banker
and his principal accountant, M. Schwarz, registering an entry to a ledger. The background shows a file cabinet indicating the European cities where the Fugger Bank conducts business. (1517)