Definition of rough in English:


Line breaks: rough
Pronunciation: /rʌf


  • 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 as a temporary measure; makeshift: he had one arm in a rough sling
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    • 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.
  • 3.2Lacking 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.
  • 3.3Not fully worked out or including every detail: he had a rough draft of his new novel
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    • 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.
  • 3.4(Of stationery) used for making preliminary notes: rough paper
  • 5Not exact or precise; approximate: they had a rough idea of when the murder took place it’ll cost about £50, at a rough guess
    More example sentences
    • We may perceive effects as real but they are in no way approaching even a rough approximation of reality and probably never will.
    • Based on a rough approximation of the time, probably he'd be eating - bran cereal and fresh juice, the same every morning.
    • In a rough approximation, it works the same way as lint, and lint's users will need very little time to understand how to use it.


informal Back to top  
  • In a manner that lacks gentleness; harshly or violently: treat ‘em rough but treat ’em fair


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  • 2 [mass noun] (On a golf course) longer grass around the fairway and the green: his second shot lay in the rough
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    • 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: I did a rough to work out the scale of the lettering
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    • 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.
    preliminary sketch, draft, outline, mock-up, model, artist's impression
  • 4An uncut precious stone: miners discovered one of the biggest diamond roughs in history
    More example sentences
    • Over the course of six decades, Frank Sinatra managed to be both the diamond and the rough.


[with object] Back to top  
  • 1Work or shape (something) in a rough, preliminary fashion: flat surfaces of wood are roughed down
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    • 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 version of something: the engineer roughed out a diagram on his notepad
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    • 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; suggest, delineate, give a brief idea of
    formal adumbrate
  • 2Make uneven: rough up the icing with a palette knife
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    • 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.
  • 3 (rough it) • informal Live in discomfort with only basic necessities: she’d had to rough it alone in digs
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    • 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

informal A male sexual partner whose toughness or lack of sophistication is a source of attraction: he could play the part of the noble savage or the bit of rough
More 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

  • 1Without decoration or other treatment; in a natural state: 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
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    • 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, unpolished, unsophisticated; makeshift, make-do, thrown together, cobbled together, provisional, stopgap, improvised, extemporary; hurried, sketchy; Latin ad hoc
(Of a person or place) unsophisticated or unrefined: the Hague, a town so bourgeois it makes Amsterdam seem rough and ready
More 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: the text looks pretty 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.

rough as bags

Australian /NZ informal Lacking refinement; coarse.
More example sentences
  • They all knew that he was rough as bags on parade with no inkling of a word of command.

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

A scolding: you two stop quarrelling 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: despite the clever programming, there are still a few rough edges to the system
More 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

Treatment that is not scrupulously fair or in accordance with the law.
More 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.
A difficult time or experience: 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.
More 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

Violent behaviour: they wouldn’t have stood for any rough stuff
More 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 out of doors: he spent the night sleeping rough on the streets
More 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 unpleasant aspects of life as well as the good: someone with his high profile in sport must take the rough with the smooth
More 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: he was roughed up in jail while awaiting trial
More 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, beat, attack, assault, knock about/around, maltreat, mistreat, abuse, batter, manhandle
informal do over, bash up, work over, beat the living daylights out of
British informal duff up
North American informal beat up on



More 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.


More example sentences
  • These are some of the sweetest melodies Williams has crafted in recent years, but the songs are contrasted to the roughness of her voice as she spits out venomous lyrics with a mixture of exhaustion and anger.
  • My pinhole films have the roughness, the crudity of early photographs and films.
  • These balls vary in size, weight, bounce, lacquer, roughness, hardness and colour.


Old English rūh, of West Germanic origin; related to Dutch ruw and German rauh.

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