\ ˈgrəf How to pronounce gruff (audio) \

Definition of gruff

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : rough, brusque, or stern in manner, speech, or aspect a gruff reply
2 : being deep and harsh : hoarse a gruff voice


gruffed; gruffing; gruffs

Definition of gruff (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to utter in a gruff voice or manner "Get out of bed now!" gruffed the sergeant.

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from gruff


gruffly adverb
gruffness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for gruff


bluff, blunt, brusque, curt, crusty, gruff mean abrupt and unceremonious in speech and manner. bluff connotes good-natured outspokenness and unconventionality. a bluff manner blunt suggests directness of expression in disregard of others' feelings. a blunt appraisal brusque applies to a sharpness or ungraciousness. a brusque response curt implies disconcerting shortness or rude conciseness. a curt command crusty suggests a harsh or surly manner sometimes concealing an inner kindliness. a crusty exterior gruff suggests a hoarse or husky speech which may imply bad temper but more often implies embarrassment or shyness. puts on a gruff pose

Examples of gruff in a Sentence

Adjective Don't be fooled by his gruff manner—he's really very kind. He spoke in a gruff voice.
Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective His body was covered in sweat, his voice was gruff, and thousands of people in the room went from boisterous to silent, sideswiped by DMX’s gospel. New York Times, "DMX, a Profound Vessel for Pain," 9 Apr. 2021 The songwriter — capable of being both gruff and tender — insisted both present the bad with the good in his thorny life and career. Andrew Dansby, Chron, "Texas singer-songwriter Guy Clark gets his due in new documentary," 29 Mar. 2021 The film follows then-83-year-old Sergio Chamy, a bright, dapper and compassionate widower hired by a gruff detective, Romulo Aitken, to go undercover in the senior facility. Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times, "‘The Mole Agent’ goes in search of elder abuse but finds a charming portrait of aging," 14 Apr. 2021 Churches in Britain held services Sunday to remember Prince Philip as people of many religions reflected on a man whose gruff exterior hid a strong personal faith and deep curiosity about others’ beliefs. Jill Lawless, USA TODAY, "British churches hold services to remember Prince Philip and his spiritual curiosity," 11 Apr. 2021 Rapper DMX, one of the most successful hip-hop artists to emerge from the ’90s with his iconic gruff delivery, died on April 9 at the age of 50. D'shonda Brown, Essence, "Rapper DMX Dead at Age 50," 9 Apr. 2021 Ben Chaplin haunts the margins of the show as Frank Mundi, a gruff detective with a heart of gold. Darren Franich,, "The Nevers sends Victorian superwomen into a messy alternate-history epic: Review," 8 Apr. 2021 There’s also a gruff expert who turns up his nose, literally, at all but the best truffles. Bill Goodykoontz, The Arizona Republic, "How 'The Truffle Hunters' turns obsession over the delicacy into a moving film about life," 7 Apr. 2021 The flat-six fires with a gruff growl, then settles to a breathy idle. Tim Pitt, Robb Report, "First Drive: Here’s How Theon Design Has Refined the Classic 911 Recipe," 18 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Pompeo, often gruff in interactions with reporters, is a skilled retail politician and, although not a soaring orator, is adept at holding an audience’s attention. David M. Drucker, Washington Examiner, "Mike Pompeo leans on Trump legacy to establish 2024 bona fides," 2 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'gruff.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

See More

First Known Use of gruff


1691, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1706, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for gruff

Adjective and Verb

Dutch grof; akin to Old High German grob coarse, hruf scurf — more at dandruff

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about gruff

Statistics for gruff

Last Updated

29 Apr 2021

Cite this Entry

“Gruff.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 16 May. 2021.

Style: MLA
MLACheck Mark Icon ChicagoCheck Mark Icon APACheck Mark Icon Merriam-WebsterCheck Mark Icon

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for gruff



English Language Learners Definition of gruff

: rough or very serious in manner or speech
of a voice : low and rough


\ ˈgrəf How to pronounce gruff (audio) \
gruffer; gruffest

Kids Definition of gruff

: rough in speech or manner a gruff reply

Other Words from gruff

gruffly adverb
gruffness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on gruff

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for gruff

Nglish: Translation of gruff for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of gruff for Arabic Speakers

Comments on gruff

What made you want to look up gruff? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


Test Your Vocabulary

Words Used by Nabokov Quiz

  • image1676440788
  • Choose the best definition or synonym for the word in bold: "There are some eructations that sound like cheers—at least, mine did." Lolita
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Universal Daily Crossword

A daily challenge for crossword fanatics.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!