Definition of rough in English:

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Pronunciation: /rəf/


1Having an uneven or irregular surface; not smooth or level: take a square of sandpaper, rough side out
More example sentences
  • The next day I placed the figure upright on a piece of 400 grit sandpaper and smoothed out the rough surface of the putty.
  • I could feel the movement, the change in the vibrations as iron-bound wheels went from a rough surface to a smoother one and then back to the former.
  • Mold spores adhere more tightly to the rough surfaces than to the smooth skin of undamaged kernels.
uneven, irregular, bumpy, lumpy, knobbly, stony, rocky, rugged, rutted, pitted, rutty
coarse, bristly, scratchy, prickly;
shaggy, hairy, bushy
dry, leathery, weather-beaten;
chapped, calloused, scaly, scabrous
1.1(Of ground or terrain) having many bumps or other obstacles; difficult to cross: they had to carry the victim across the rough, stony ground
More example sentences
  • If you own a company, you know all about bumps and thumps and rough terrain.
  • Otherwise, it can be difficult to navigate rough terrain and return to an exact point.
  • He says that his new skidder works very well despite the adverse terrain and rough ground.
1.2Not soft to the touch: her skin felt dry and rough
More example sentences
  • He was surprised that when he touched her cheek, her skin was soft, not rough as it appeared.
  • She pictured Ethan, his face, the way his eyes glazed over with desire, how soft those rough hands could be, and her words seemed hollow and empty.
  • His rough fingers touched her arm when she didn't respond.
1.3(Of a voice) coming out with difficulty so as to sound harsh and rasping: his voice was rough with barely suppressed fury
More example sentences
  • When he spoke, his voice was rough and husky, barely above a whisper.
  • Unable to even squint at the harsh light, her voice was rough and dry.
  • Jeffrey's voice was rough and his words were harsh but Anthony remained calm and cool, save his eyes.
gruff, hoarse, harsh, rasping, raspy, croaking, croaky, husky, throaty, gravelly, guttural
1.4(Of wine or another alcoholic drink) sharp or harsh in taste.
Example sentences
  • After eight hours, we had gone solo and had splendid dog fights over the moors, huge fun, especially after two pints of rough cider!
  • It is a lusty, even rough blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan.
  • The rough red Italian vino was on the table for every meal and we drank it instead of water, not being too certain of the purity of the ship's drinking water.
sharp, sharp-tasting, sour, acidic, acid, vinegary, acidulous
1.5Denoting the face of a tennis or squash racket from which the loops formed in the stringing process project (used as a call when the racket is spun to decide the right to serve first or to choose ends). The opposite of smooth.
2(Of a person or their behavior) not gentle; violent or boisterous: strollers should be capable of withstanding rough treatment
More example sentences
  • I have to admit it excited me the way he was rough and aggressive.
  • He was a rough man, but out of his venality and his bestial nature erupted this divine expression on the canvas.
  • It was a busy day and the rough customers were more than a little rowdy that evening.
violent, brutal, vicious;
aggressive, belligerent, pugnacious, thuggish;
boisterous, rowdy, disorderly, unruly, riotous
careless, clumsy, inept, unskillful
boorish, loutish, oafish, brutish, coarse, crude, uncouth, vulgar, unrefined, unladylike, ungentlemanly, uncultured;
unmannerly, impolite, discourteous, uncivil, ungracious, rude
2.1(Of an area or occasion) characterized by or notorious for the occurrence of violent behavior: the workmen hate going to the rough areas of town
More example sentences
  • Kim thought for a moment and then remembered what Rosie had said about wanting her baby to grow up in a loving family and not on some rough London estate.
  • Living in a relatively rough part of town, I wasn't allowed out an awful lot.
  • It is a very rough place and rarely does anyone from this area go there.
2.2(Of the sea) having large and dangerous waves: the lifeboat crew braved rough seas to rescue a couple
More example sentences
  • We heard that the sea was rough over the Channel and did not expect you until the end of the week.
  • I do not think the man will come today; the seas are rough, and the horizon shows more storms to come.
  • ‘This does not bode well with me,’ James said as he held his rifle as though it were a life preserver in rough seas.
turbulent, stormy, tempestuous, violent, heavy, heaving, choppy
2.3(Of weather) wild and stormy.
Example sentences
  • Although the rough weather and thickening fog beyond the harbour prevented us passing between the high cliffs, we made up for it with a nightcap in the yacht club.
  • Ships have been reconstructed to find out such things as how fast could they travel, how well they handled in rough weather, etc…
  • The idea was that this would cut the journey by a week and avoid the last days of probably rough weather through the Bay of Biscay and up the English Channel.
2.4 informal Difficult and unpleasant; hard; severe: the teachers gave me a rough time because my image didn’t fit the first day of a job is rough on everyone
More example sentences
  • All right, I understand that you've had a rough time, but there is no way you're finding out my past on these conditions.
  • She looked like she'd had a rough time, and there was a three-foot-thick solid wall a mile high around her heart.
  • If this was the explanation, then they could be in for a rough time.
difficult, hard, tough, bad, unpleasant;
demanding, arduous
2.5 [as complement] informal Unwell: the altitude had hit her and she was feeling rough
2.6 [as complement] informal Depressed and anxious: when he’s feeling rough, he comes and talks things over to calm him down
3Not finished tidily or decoratively; plain and basic: the customers sat at rough wooden tables
More example sentences
  • She had spotted him sitting in one corner, dark except for the candle on the table, which was dripping hot wax onto the rough, wooden table.
  • The walls, as in the rest of the house, are finished in traditional rough plaster that complements the timber doors and architraves.
  • If you think the finish is somewhat rough, you are right, but there is a good reason for this.
3.1Put together without the proper materials or skill; makeshift: he had one arm in a rough sling
More example sentences
  • Throw together a rough prototype to bounce off users.
  • He was standing frozen in the doorway, a rough sack of belongings slung over his shoulder.
  • Drake grabbed a handful of his hair and twisted cruelly just as he finished tying off the rough bandage.
3.2(Of hair or fur) not smooth; coarse: the creature’s body was covered with rough hair
More example sentences
  • Her hand closed on rough fur, and with a lunge she threw herself forward.
  • As the rough fur grazed against her skin, she realized that it was not hers.
  • She was young-looking, and she very long, rough hair the color of a cougar's fur.
3.3Lacking sophistication or refinement: she took care of him in her rough, kindly way
More example sentences
  • Yet delicacy is not defeated, and this ambiguity in Jansons's paint handling - is it rough or is it refined?
  • Ultimately this scheme has to do with the architects' pleasure in materials and light, and in juxtaposition of the rough and refined.
  • They spoke together in their own rough language for a while before Rastif brought Sanchen over to them.
3.4Not worked out or correct in every detail: he had a rough draft of his new novel
More example sentences
  • Even though details are still rough, it's good to know that it placed so much thought into this masterpiece.
  • I wrote various rough drafts, too many of them sarcastic.
  • The book reads like a rough draft, not a polished book.


In a manner that lacks gentleness; harshly or violently: treat ‘em rough but treat ’em fair


1chiefly British A disreputable and violent person.
Example sentences
  • Exhausted, the roughs finally shaken off, at 1 a.m. the sweat-soaked, frightened, and bedraggled dandy hammered at the door of his last-hope refuge.
  • Two teams of roughs, clothed in only their union-suits, attempt to wrest the boar-skin from each other's possession.
2(On a golf course) longer grass around the fairway and the green: his second shot was in the rough on the left
More example sentences
  • The 425-yard par four is a dog-leg right, with trees lining the left side and heavy rough and a fairway bunker on the right.
  • Paul Crowe, the club's golf manager, describes it to me as ‘primal - a battle with the elements and natural roughs.’
3A preliminary sketch for a design: I did a rough to work out the scale of the lettering
More example sentences
  • Behind the jar, a sketch pad is peopled with figurative roughs, historical drafts - the preliminaries of art and history, of cultural recognition.
  • Then I went into the mixing studio for six weeks and worked from 7.00 am to 8: 30 am doing the drawings and colour roughs.
  • Since most do not want to believe me, at a couple of random points during the semester, I will take one of the student's pinned-up roughs and wax poetic about various points and rationales.
sketch, draft, outline, mock-up
4An uncut precious stone.
Example sentences
  • Over the course of six decades, Frank Sinatra managed to be both the diamond and the rough.


[with object]
1Work or shape (something) in a rough, preliminary fashion: flat surfaces of wood are roughed down
More example sentences
  • Few anchorages were available in this vast maze of coastline, with its network of inlets whose beds had been roughed in with decisive strokes of Nature's creative tools.
  • The closet bend and toilet floor flange must be roughed in first.
  • Using that comp, the artist roughs out a model in Maya.
1.1 (rough something out) Produce a preliminary and unfinished sketch or version of something: the engineer roughed out a diagram on his notepad
More example sentences
  • Woke this morning with the grim realization that I had not polished the column - in fact, I'd just roughed it out, sketched out the basic ideas.
  • Working with the comp and some basic reference colors, the understructure of the ship is roughed out.
  • In the beginning, we would sit together at a computer in New York or Chicago and rough things out, which was a lot of fun but extremely unproductive.
draft, sketch out, outline, block out, mock up
1.2Make uneven or ruffled: rough up the icing with a palette knife the water was roughed by the wind
More example sentences
  • The middle of the album is largely filled with the former, leaving the latter to rough up the record's edges.
  • Grosvenor used a chain saw to rough up the top face of the work, which is at a tall viewer's eye level.
  • Peter smiled and roughed his hair like he was just a kid.
roughen, make rough
2 (rough it) Live in discomfort with only basic necessities: she had had to rough it alone in a dive
More example sentences
  • Man cannot live by roughing it alone, which is why the first part of my journey is spent in the five-star opulence of the Tanjung Aru Resort in the state capital, Kota Kinabulu.
  • Theoretically, if the tent has stayed up, then we could have roughed it in it.
  • Little Nicky may be an exact copy of his DNA-donor, but Gordie was a stray for a couple of years and roughed it.



bit of rough

British informal A male sexual partner whose toughness or lack of sophistication is a source of attraction.
Example sentences
  • If anyone ever needs proof that he is more than a meat-fisted warrior and rather attractive bit of rough, they should watch this film.
  • So, whilst many gay men like a bit of rough there are obviously many who like a bit of posh.
  • I always knew I'm just a bit of rough while you rebound from the divorce.

in the rough

1In a natural state; without decoration or other treatment: a diamond in the rough
More example sentences
  • Those who made the effort to find the show discovered a true diamond in the rough - a show that captured everything good about improvisational comedy in a pseudo-sitcom format.
  • And so begins a tale of romance between the lowest of the low and a rich politician who must learn to love this diamond in the rough as she truly is.
  • No let us not discuss me darling, you are topic of everyone in town, and deserve it completely, for you are the brightest sun and the diamond in the rough of all the unpolished rocks that are the other jewels.
2In difficulties: even before the recession hit, the project was in the rough
More example sentences
  • A group of 10 partners bought the course as a real estate investment in 1988, just in time for the regional real estate market to land in the rough.
  • The road of his thought was labyrinthine and sometimes ended in the rough of Vietnam or Richard Nixon.

rough and ready

Crude but effective: a rough-and-ready estimating method
More example sentences
  • It's rough and ready and it's simple lack of visual elegance makes it so much more enjoyable.
  • Churning out three and four-deckers at his factory rate of production (and he did much else than write novels) meant that Scott was occasionally obliged to be rough and ready in the finer points of construction.
  • ‘The recording session was a little rough and ready - the song was literally made in a room in someone's house,’ Tom laughs.
basic, simple, crude, unrefined, unsophisticated;
makeshift, provisional, stopgap, improvised, extemporary, ad hoc;
hurried, sketchy
3.1(Of a person or place) unsophisticated or unrefined.
Example sentences
  • His characters - the men, at least - are rough and ready, and thrown down on the page with tons of energy.
  • Sara and Victoria were both nice enough, Danielle was a little rough and ready but I thought her heart was in the right place, and Amy had always seemed perfectly friendly and personable.
  • The Old Town, in its heyday, was apparently a teeming place, rough and ready and full of humanity with all its flaws, vices and passion.

rough around the edges

Having a few imperfections: until we clean up and lay down the new carpet, it’s going to look a little rough around the edges
More example sentences
  • ‘When we talked about what our goals were, all three of us said we really wanted to communicate a message, even if it's kind of rough around the edges - we all just really wanted to get it out,’ she says.
  • The camerawork is enthusiastic and the editing has some nice touches - cutting on beats and using splitscreen effects - but it's rough around the edges and would have benefited from a more seasoned hand to give a little more direction.
  • The stealth aspect of the game is also a little rough around the edges since sneaking past guards or security cameras is based almost entirely on trial and error.
4.1Not refined: Donnie is a bit rough around the edges, but she loves him
More example sentences
  • He's a bit rough around the edges, but she was able to overcome that knowing that Brandon is happy with him.
  • He stood with Gary, a stout young man, a bit awkward and rough around the edges.
  • Kelly was rough around the edges, the kind of girl who would stomp a grown man flat if she had to, despite her cotton-headed complexion, so I knew her smiling through her bite of waffles was the equivalent of a usual person laughing out loud.

the rough edge (or side) of one's tongue

A scolding: you two stop quarreling or you’ll get the rough edge of my tongue
More example sentences
  • Even the poor old Pope gets the rough edge of his tongue - for showing him ‘a total lack of respect’ when they met.
  • After an unusual lashing with the rough side of his tongue, Ian ordered Grant to post sentries every few yards along the crest of the hill.
  • The King pronounced himself delighted to be among ‘grave, learned and reverend men’, though he gave both bishops and Puritans the rough edge of his tongue as discussions proceeded over three days.

rough edges

Small imperfections in someone or something that is basically satisfactory.
Example sentences
  • But for others it takes off the rough edges, it takes out all the excitement of a work by trying to make it more acceptable to an audience.
  • Radio can be good fun and tends to knock off the rough edges so that you can develop as a smoother performer, ready for your big break in front of the camera.
  • We live in a sanitized world, where spin and public image disinfects and sanitises any rough edges to our entertainment.

rough justice

Pronunciation: /ˌrəf ˈjəstəs/
Treatment that is not scrupulously fair or in accordance with the law.
Example sentences
  • But in the meantime, it's hard to feel too bothered when the Internet community's long-established tradition of dispensing its own rough justice means that the world has one less spam king.
  • These days it seems you don't have to look very far to find someone handing out pitchforks and torches and organizing a mob to administer rough justice on some bar.
  • It's rough justice, but justice all the same, from a certain point of view.

rough passage

A journey over rough sea.
8.1A difficult process of achieving something or of becoming successful: the rough passage faced by the legislation
More example sentences
  • It's had a rough passage at times, particularly post-9 / 11.
  • Ultimately, Geldof discovered more about America and himself than America learned about him during the rough passage that climaxed at the Palladium in New York.
  • Whatever way you look at it, a rough passage would be a fair appraisal for his sojourn at the top so far.

a rough ride

see ride.
Example sentences
  • So it was not surprising, given the increasingly rough ride both in Baghdad and Washington over the last weeks, that the president took to the airwaves Tuesday night to sound the alarm again.
  • From talking with them and from my own experiences going to school years ago, I have come to the conclusion that, in the education system, anyone who thinks outside the box will have a very rough ride indeed.
  • Well, I think undeniably it's been a very rough ride so far, and I think that he has brought in some very valuable changes since coming into office.

rough stuff

Boisterous or violent behavior.
Example sentences
  • When there's too much rough stuff going on, captains will get lectures from the referee in front of the penalty box and coaches are as adamant as ever when things don't go the team's way.
  • ‘I guess she doesn't get into much rough stuff,’ I offer.
  • Yet in a movie that dishes out its share of rough stuff, it's not the violence that gets to people - the pivotal scene in which a grown man cries has caused the biggest fuss.

sleep rough

British Sleep in uncomfortable conditions, typically outdoors.
Example sentences
  • After being made redundant, she slept rough for a few nights in a derelict building and was unlucky enough to be caught in a heavy frost.
  • They all slept rough the previous night and many managed to blank out the morning sniffing glue.
  • On average three people a night sleep rough in Richmond.

take the rough with the smooth

Accept the difficult or unpleasant aspects of life as well as the good.
Example sentences
  • All too keen to be the centre of attention when announcing a waiting lists initiative or a patient-focused plan, he must learn to take the rough with the smooth and get stuck in where necessary.
  • It was the physical game as predicted and both teams took the rough with the smooth.
  • He never discounted the romantic element but at the same time looked for a completeness that can come by taking the rough with the smooth.

Phrasal verbs

rough someone up

informal Beat someone up.
Example sentences
  • Fearing that the criminal would return and rough me up, I blew on my crime whistle to wake my neighbors for help.
  • The pizzas are knocked flying as the thugs nab Stan and start roughing him up.
  • Failing to do this will result in Internet thugs coming to your house and roughing you up.
beat up, attack, assault, knock around/about, batter, manhandle
informal do over, beat the living daylights out of



Example sentences
  • In those pre-Watergate years, a certain air of roughish disrepute still clung to journalists as a species.
  • I gave the people who were listening and watching a roughish wink.
  • Warts are small, skin-coloured, roughish lumps on the skin.


Old English rūh; related to Dutch ruw and German rauh.

Words that rhyme with rough

bluff, buff, chough, chuff, cuff, duff, enough, fluff, gruff, guff, huff, luff, puff, ruff, scruff, scuff, slough, snuff, stuff, Tough, tuff

For editors and proofreaders

Syllabification: rough

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