raff·​ish ˈra-fish How to pronounce raffish (audio)
: marked by or suggestive of flashy vulgarity or crudeness
: marked by a careless unconventionality : rakish
raffishly adverb
raffishness noun

Did you know?

Raffish sounds like it should mean "resembling raff." But what is raff? Originally, "raff" was a word meaning "rubbish"; it derived from Middle English "raf," and it was being used for trash and refuse back in the 1400s. Around a century later, English speakers were also using the word riffraff to mean "disreputable characters" or "rabble." The origins of "riffraff" are distinct from the "rubbish" sense of "raff"; "riffraff" derived from an Anglo-French phrase meaning "one and all." By the mid-1500s, the similarities between "raff" and "riffraff" had prompted people to start using the two words as synonyms, and "raff" gained a "rabble" sense. It was that ragtag "raff" that gave rise to the adjective "raffish" in the late 1700s.

Example Sentences

the dowager cringed at the thought of raffish tourists in rough boots tromping all over her Persian rugs
Recent Examples on the Web Indeed, weren’t these childish fantasies of escape, these raffish homages to crime flicks, already passé when the film was made five decades ago? Hazlitt, 2 Dec. 2022 Basking in the afternoon sunshine, cherry-red metallic paint glinting off its fulsome curves, the Caton exudes a raffish retro glamor. Tim Pitt, Robb Report, 9 Dec. 2022 His writing earned honors and recognition, yet nothing like Mr. Amis’s raffish stardom. Brenda Cronin, WSJ, 28 Oct. 2022 Jonathan Majors cements his status as charismatic leading man as the raffish outlaw on a quest to hunt down those responsible for his requisite personal tragedy. Dennis Perkins, EW.com, 5 Aug. 2022 Stevens begins his account with an introduction to his ancestors, all of whom were show people in the gloriously raffish tradition. Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, 17 June 2022 Theo Gibson — a cynical, chain-smoking bachelor who cut a raffish figure on Leverett’s campus — looms over those years. New York Times, 5 Apr. 2022 There’s a lot of socializing but little distancing in Natchez Under-the-Hill, a strip of bars below the bluffs and a raffish echo of the old river town where musicians like Jerry Lee Lewis once played and partied. Andrew Nelson, WSJ, 23 Apr. 2021 But McConaughey has a raffish charm that makes such high jinks forgivable. Steve Chapman, chicagotribune.com, 21 Apr. 2021 See More

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

Word History

First Known Use

1795, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of raffish was in 1795


Dictionary Entries Near raffish

Cite this Entry

“Raffish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/raffish. Accessed 6 Feb. 2023.

Kids Definition


raff·​ish ˈraf-ish How to pronounce raffish (audio)
: vulgarly crude or flashy
raffish language
: careless about moral behavior : disreputable
raffishly adverb
raffishness noun

More from Merriam-Webster on raffish

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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

Fashionable Words

  • dog-sunglasses-scarf
  • Which of these items is named for a deadly weapon?
How Strong Is Your Vocabulary?

Test your vocabulary with our 10-question quiz!

Solve today's spelling word game by finding as many words as you can with using just 7 letters. Longer words score more points.

Can you make 12 words with 7 letters?