person from a tribe from central Asia that overran Europe in the 4c. and 5c., Old English Hunas (plural), from Medieval Latin Hunni, apparently ultimately from Turkic Hun-yü, the name of a tribe (they were known in China as Han or Hiong-nu). Figurative sense of "reckless destroyer of beauty" is from 1806. Applied to the German in World War I by their enemies because of stories of atrocities, but the nickname originally was urged on German soldiers bound for China by Kaiser Wilhelm II in 1900, which caused a scandal. Related: Hunnic; Hunnish.
updated on October 10, 2017