ruf·​fi·​an | \ ˈrə-fē-ən How to pronounce ruffian (audio) \

Definition of ruffian

: a brutal person : bully

Other Words from ruffian

ruffian adjective
ruffianism \ ˈrə-​fē-​ə-​ˌni-​zəm How to pronounce ruffian (audio) \ noun
ruffianly adjective

Examples of ruffian in a Sentence

a gang of ruffians preying upon people who ventured into that section of town
Recent Examples on the Web Yes, in the now richly classic cowboy movie The Western Code, which was released in 1932, an ex-lawman hero rides into town and confronts the local ruffian. Lance Eliot, Forbes, 19 May 2022 His train of thought reminds the reader that Cromwell is also his own author, having fashioned a high minister out of the unlikely material of a ruffian from the streets. Judith Shulevitz, The Atlantic, 5 Apr. 2020 In the chaos, the young ruffians pilfered freely and made away with a small fortune. Sylvia Poggioli, The New York Review of Books, 29 Mar. 2020 Policemen bash down doors and clip handcuffs on ruffians. The Economist, 18 Jan. 2020 Tensions between the natives and the conquerors were lessened when the Bear Flag ruffians were supplanted by regular U.S. troops. Gary Kamiya,, 10 Jan. 2020 My dad and uncle were abalone divers ... considered ruffians by the locals. Los Angeles Times, 1 Aug. 2019 Soon, their unsatisfying one night stand devolves into a silly crime saga when two cartoonish ruffians, Kipper (Celyn Jones) and Dec (Mark Bonnar), break into their hotel room and rob them at gunpoint., 13 June 2019 Mitchell’s newest collaborative of local ruffians (including Noah Nelson, Greg Baxter and others), has the honor of kicking off the Bike Kitchen’s slate of 2018 shows along with Slattern V and Manky. Aaron Davis, sacbee, 13 Apr. 2018 See More

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

First Known Use of ruffian

circa 1525, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for ruffian

Middle French rufian

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Time Traveler for ruffian

Time Traveler

The first known use of ruffian was circa 1525

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Dictionary Entries Near ruffian

ruffed lemur



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Cite this Entry

“Ruffian.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 8 Aug. 2022.

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More Definitions for ruffian


ruf·​fi·​an | \ ˈrə-fē-ən How to pronounce ruffian (audio) \

Kids Definition of ruffian

: a violent and cruel person

More from Merriam-Webster on ruffian

Nglish: Translation of ruffian for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ruffian for Arabic Speakers


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