Definition of ruffle in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈrʌf(ə)l/


[with object]
1Disorder or disarrange (someone’s hair), typically by running one’s hands through it: he ruffled her hair affectionately
More example sentences
  • He grinned contentedly as he ruffled my already tangled hair.
  • In the end, Lady Eleanor settled for a tender, parting kiss on each boy's forehead, affectionately ruffling his hair as she did so.
  • There was a static snap as the television turned on and Reid walked back, ruffling my hair affectionately as he swept past me and into the next room.
disarrange, tousle, dishevel, rumple, run one's fingers through, make untidy, tumble, riffle, disorder;
mess up, make a mess of, tangle
North American informal muss, muss up
1.1(Of a bird) erect (its feathers) in anger or display: they warbled incessantly, their throat feathers ruffled
More example sentences
  • It would just sit there, ruffle its clipped wing feathers and continue its neurotic seed shovelling and beak swinging.
  • Just then, a bird beside him ruffled its wings and flew away.
  • Fortunately, the bird only ruffled a few of its feathers.
1.2Disturb the smoothness or tranquillity of: the evening breeze ruffled the surface of the pond in the yard
More example sentences
  • As when a breeze ruffles the surface of a reflecting pool, ripples ran rapidly across her vision, momentarily distorting the figures.
  • A strong breeze ruffles the surface of the lake.
  • A light onshore breeze ruffled the surface of the bay, a few feet away I watched a turkey buzzard or vulture fly by.
make ripples in, ripple, riffle, roughen
1.3Disconcert or upset the composure of (someone): Lancaster had been ruffled by her questions
More example sentences
  • I was ruffled and quickly reacted by sending up the windows.
  • I was briefly ruffled, because few things are held as closely and protectively as one's musical preferences.
  • Yet she has never allowed petty jealousies to ruffle her.
2 (usually as adjective ruffled) Ornament with or gather into a frill: a blouse with a high ruffled neck
More example sentences
  • The sleeves of the shirt were, thanks to Alicia, immaculately black, the frills of the cuffs ruffled lightly.
  • He was lightly muscled and wore a grey ruffled, button down shirt, with the first two buttons undone.
  • He wore one of those ruffled shirts that Alora associated with artists in eighteenth-century France.


1An ornamental gathered or goffered frill of lace or other cloth on a garment, especially around the wrist or neck.
Example sentences
  • The garment is often trimmed with lace, ruffles, bows and ribbons, optionally with spaghetti straps.
  • Scalloped edges, lace and ruffles infuse the clothes with motion and make for an exciting silhouette.
  • He wore pitch-black pants and a black shirt with understated ruffles at the neck and sleeves.
frill, flounce, ruff, ruche, jabot, furbelow
2A vibrating drum beat.
Example sentences
  • The ruffle on drums and the flourish on bugles are sounded together, up to four times depending on the prominence of the deceased.
  • They started with the sounding of a bugle, leading in to a drum ruffle from the drum corps, and then swinging into their rock group performance.



ruffle someone's feathers

Cause someone to become annoyed or upset: his sudden rise ruffled the feathers of the old guard tampering with the traditional approach would ruffle a few feathers
More example sentences
  • Jess bumped a side table and sent it crashing to the dusty floor with a clang that shook my eardrums, ruffled my feathers with the irritating vibration, and made every one of us jump.
  • It's this snobbish attitude toward work place interaction that ruffles my feathers.
  • It's been a difficult week for the committee that devised the rules, but not one that ruffled their feathers unduly.

smooth someone's ruffled feathers

Make someone less angry or irritated by using soothing words: twenty minutes later, after a diplomatic phone call, she had succeeded in smoothing Henri’s ruffled feathers
More example sentences
  • I muttered darkly, not liking the fact that he so easily smoothed my ruffled feathers.
  • He shook his head and laughed in merriment as if to smooth Big Freddie's ruffled feathers.
  • A little lie would indubitably make things all better, smooth Jake's ruffled feathers, and make everything in my life shiny again.


Middle English (as a verb): of unknown origin. Current noun senses date from the late 17th century.

Words that rhyme with ruffle

duffel, kerfuffle, muffle, scuffle, shuffle, snuffle, truffle

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: ruf¦fle

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