Share this entry
ruffian Line breaks: ruf|fian
Pronunciation: /ˈrʌfɪən/

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, scoundrel, villain, rogue, rascal, lout, hooligan, hoodlum, vandal, delinquent, rowdy, bully boy, bully, brute;
Australian  larrikin
informal tough, bruiser, heavy, gorilla, yahoo
British informal rough, yob, yobbo, bovver boy, lager lout, chav, hoodie
Scottish & Northern English informal keelie, ned
North American informal hood, goon
Australian/New Zealand informal roughie, hoon
archaic miscreant
rare myrmidon


Example sentences
  • And the state tolerated ruffianism so long as disorder was kept at a minimum, and its authority was not fundamentally challenged.
Pronunciation: /ˈrʌfɪənli/
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:
Share this entry

What do you find interesting about this word or phrase?

Comments that don't adhere to our Community Guidelines may be moderated or removed.

Subscribe to remove ads and access premium resources