- It is pronounced in an English approximation of the French, 'BOORJ-wah', IPA: /ˈbʊəʒ wɑː/; The French pronunciation is approximately /ˈbuːʁ ʒwɑ/. The feminine form in French is bourgeoise, 'BOORJ-wahz', IPA: /ˈbʊəʒ wɑːz/. The masculine and epicene plural in French is identical with the masculine singular; the feminine plural has a different form from, but the same pronunciation as, the feminine singular: bourgeoises, 'BOORJ-wahz', IPA: /ˈbʊəʒ wɑːz/. It is not necessary in English to use any other form than bourgeois, but some writers enjoy demonstrating their knowledge of French by doing so.
- The more English term for the original idea of the 'bourgeois' was 'middle class'. This 'middle class' (later divided in English discourse into 'upper middle class' and 'lower middle class') is now a slippery concept with varying interpretations, so it is often replaced by bourgeoisie, which for the convenience of making social distinctions is divided into
- the petite bourgeoisie ('p'teet boorj-wah-ZEE', /pət i ˈbʊəʒ wɑːz ˌiː/, literally the 'small bourgeois', anglicized into the petty bourgeois), composed of petits bourgeois (singular petit bourgeois; feminine singular petite bourgeoise 'p'teet boorj-WAHZ, /pət it ˈbʊəʒ wɑːz/, fem. pl. petites bourgeoises pronounced like the fem. sing., are the 'lower middle class', the "commercial classes" (OED, 1989), such as shop-keepers, clerks and skilled craftsmen.The term is often used (derogatively) in social circles to mean 'of small-town conventionally conservative habit of thought', 'aping their betters', 'of low tastes aspiring to be more genteel'.
- The haute (/əʊt/) (or grande /grãdə) bourgeoisie might be described as the upper, or professional, middle class.
In Marxist theory, the bourgeoisie is the capitalist class above all others. It owns the great enterprises of capitalism, and by employing the proletariat (working class) exploits and dominates it. In the capitalist age, the bourgeoisie has replaced the aristocracy, or land-owning class, as the ruling class of society. In this understanding of society, the haute bourgeoisie is the class that counts; the petite bourgeoisie, or small-scale owners, are of marginal importance, and in some ways, such as their lack of power, have more in common with the proletariat than with the hauts bourgeois.
- -bourgeois can also be used as an element to describe an inhabitant of a town whose name includes the element '-bourg',, as in Luxembourgeois[e] strasbourgeois[e] and occasionally Edinbourgeois[e] (or Edimbourgeois[e]: (the French for 'Edinburgh' is Édimbourg).
- Etymological note: A bourgeois[e] was primarily a citizen of a bourg, the French equivalent of a burgh. (This meaning could be more loosely applied to citizens of towns outside France.) A bourgeois was of a different rank and status to the gentry and aristocracy above and the peasantry below, both of whom depended on the land and lived in the countryside. The bourgeois was distinguished by income earned and wealth gained by trade, concentrated in towns (commercial centres). To engage in trade, and to live by necessity in town, was beneath the dignity of the gentry and above the aspirations of the peasantry - until the Industrial Revolution drew them into the factories. Bourgeois is derived from the same etymological root as burgher and burgess.