: a man devoted to a life of sensual pleasure : rake

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Roué originated as a French word and gained momentum when it began to be used in reference to the libertine companions of Philippe II, France's regent from 1715-1723. Roué means "broken on the wheel" in French and ultimately derives from Latin rota, meaning "wheel." Since the wheel being referred to was an instrument of punishment, the French were implying that such dissolute beings deserved this punishment. By the end of the 18th century, English-speakers added roué to its list of synonyms for a rake, libertine, debaucher, lecher, etc.

Example Sentences

Recent Examples on the Web Why not the antics of sly Elizabethan housewives playing tricks on a fatuous drunken roue? Peter Marks, Washington Post, 22 Jan. 2020 In the film, Jennifer Jones played the heroine, in her maid’s cap and apron, and French actor Charles Boyer was Adam Belinski, the refugee Czech intellectual roue, on the Hollywood assumption that one European accent is as good as another. New York Times, 12 Apr. 2018

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'roué.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


French, literally, broken on the wheel, from past participle of rouer to break on the wheel, from Medieval Latin rotare, from Latin, to rotate; from the feeling that such a person deserves this punishment

First Known Use

1781, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of roué was in 1781


Dictionary Entries Near roué

Cite this Entry

“Roué.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rou%C3%A9. Accessed 8 Jun. 2023.

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