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,
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,
) preserve the sense of "protector or owner of whores." For sense evolution in Eng., cf. bully