Get the details behind our redesign


[ruhf-ee-uh n, ruhf-yuh n] /ˈrʌf i ən, ˈrʌf yən/
a tough, lawless person; roughneck; bully.
Also, ruffianly. tough; lawless; brutal.
1525-35; < Middle French < Italian ruffiano, perhaps < Langobardic *hruf scurf + Italian -ano -an
1. brute, tough, knave, rogue, blackguard. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
Cite This Source
Examples for ruffian
  • ruffian makes a similar version and although it's no steal it's still only a third of the cost.
  • It reminds me of pogo dancing and getting slammed into by ruffian teenage boys on the dance floor.
  • The ruffian was cut to pieces upon the spot, but first killed another of the courtiers.
  • My first impulse was to throttle the old ruffian and make for the open air.
  • But their stock in trade has other ruffian advantages.
  • He has also been characterized as a whiskey runner, card player and ruffian.
  • The voice came from an unshaven ruffian holding court at two tables dragged together at the back of the canteen.
British Dictionary definitions for ruffian


a violent or lawless person; hoodlum or villain
Derived Forms
ruffianism, noun
ruffianly, adjective
Word Origin
C16: from Old French rufien, from Italian ruffiano, perhaps related to Langobardic hruf scurf, scabbiness
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
Cite This Source
Word Origin and History for ruffian
1531, from M.Fr. rufian "a pimp," from It. ruffiano "a pander, pimp," of uncertain origin, perhaps from a Gmc. source related to rough (q.v.), but Du. roffiaan, Ger. Ruffian are said to be from French. Eng. meaning may have been influenced by similarity of sound to rough. The Romanic words (e.g. M.L. ruffianus, Prov. rufian, Catalan rufia, Sp. rufian) preserve the sense of "protector or owner of whores." For sense evolution in Eng., cf. bully.
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
Cite This Source

Word of The Day

Difficulty index for ruffian

Few English speakers likely know this word

Word Value for ruffian

Scrabble Words With Friends

Quotes with ruffian