raff·​ish | \ ˈra-fish How to pronounce raffish (audio) \

Definition of raffish

1 : marked by or suggestive of flashy vulgarity or crudeness
2 : marked by a careless unconventionality : rakish

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Other Words from raffish

raffishly adverb
raffishness noun

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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.

Examples of raffish in a Sentence

the dowager cringed at the thought of raffish tourists in rough boots tromping all over her Persian rugs
Recent Examples on the Web 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 Kevin, an Englishman living in Marseille, agreed to meet with the young Helder, who hoped to learn a few secrets of the trade from a master with a raffish reputation. Los Angeles Times, 13 Dec. 2020 To set the raffish Bentley apart from its stuffy stablemate Rolls-Royce, the Turbo R's cockpit boasts features like a tachometer and a gear selector that has been moved from the steering column to a much sportier position in the center console. Barry Winfield, Car and Driver, 7 July 2020 Young Lendrum’s prowess earned him a raffish preeminence among his peers. Dennis Drabelle, Washington Post, 25 Feb. 2020 Max Hardberger, a raffish oceanic repo man, stars in Urbina’s heist story. Alyssa Rosenberg, Washington Post, 12 Sep. 2019 Brighton, a resort on the south coast, is well known as a raffish, radical place. Rebecca Mead, The New Yorker, 10 Jan. 2020 The best emerging writers metaphorically reject their domineering parents and gravitate to their raffish uncles and outcast aunts. Michael Dirda, Washington Post, 16 Oct. 2019

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.

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First Known Use of raffish

1795, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of raffish was in 1795

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Cite this Entry

“Raffish.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/raffish. Accessed 26 Sep. 2021.

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More Definitions for raffish



English Language Learners Definition of raffish

: not completely acceptable or respectable but interesting and attractive

More from Merriam-Webster on raffish

Nglish: Translation of raffish for Spanish Speakers


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