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ruffian Syllabification: ruf·fi·an
Pronunciation: /ˈrəfēən/

Definition of ruffian in English:


A violent person, especially one involved in crime.
Example sentences
  • Well, so long as he could hide his emotions when they crossed paths with the thieves - bullies and ruffians were always drawn to the fearful.
  • The tactics of the violent ruffians failed in this year's election.
  • Vidocq served a lucrative apprenticeship with various ruffians, vagabonds and swindlers.
thug, lout, hooligan, hoodlum, vandal, delinquent, rowdy, scoundrel, villain, rogue, bully, brute
informal tough, roughneck, bruiser, hardman, heavy, yahoo, knuckle-dragger, goon


Pronunciation: /-ˌnizəm/
Example sentences
  • And the state tolerated ruffianism so long as disorder was kept at a minimum, and its authority was not fundamentally challenged.
Pronunciation: /ˈrəfēənlē/
Example sentences
  • I do apologise for my ruffianly appearance, ma'am.
  • Presently the man whistled and another ruffianly person sprang out from near the gate at the corner of the Grotto-field and joined his companion.
  • Such rowdy, ruffianly, and apparently motiveless violence has a much longer history than the term hooligan.


Late 15th century: from Old French ruffian, from Italian ruffiano, perhaps from dialect rofia 'scab, scurf', of Germanic origin.

  • This is from Old French ruffian, from Italian ruffiano, perhaps from dialect rofia ‘scab, scurf’, of Germanic origin.

Words that rhyme with ruffian

nymphean • Brobdingnagian
Definition of ruffian in:
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