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

Definition of ruffian

: a brutal person : bully

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Other Words from ruffian

ruffian adjective
ruffianism \ ˈrə-​fē-​ə-​ˌni-​zəm How to pronounce ruffianism (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 My dad and uncle were abalone divers ... considered ruffians by the locals. Los Angeles Times, "Newsletter: Proposed food stamp cuts could be intensely felt in the Central Valley," 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., "Reviews: Jim Gaffigan doubles up in ‘Being Frank’; Jack Quaid is ‘Plus One’; and more," 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, "Rev up with Loose Engines, a blast from the Beatles’ past, throwback jazz | The Sacramento Bee," 13 Apr. 2018 When Lily welcomes a drug dealer, the ruffian savors every luxurious detail. Amy Nicholson, Town & Country, "What This Spring's Thriller Thoroughbreds Reveals About the Horrors of Being Rich," 26 Feb. 2018 The early episodes are dominated by solid character actors in scruffy facial hair proficiently playing cops and local ruffians. Daniel Fienberg, The Hollywood Reporter, "'The Alienist': TV Review," 15 Jan. 2018 It's become a moviegoing ritual of sorts, a touchstone of cinematic reliability in a world often seeming to be reeling into chaos, to see a vengeful Neeson dispensing rough justice to a baker's assortment of hoods, ruffians and, in one case, wolves. Cary Darling, Houston Chronicle, "It's January, which means Liam Neeson is kicking some butt," 11 Jan. 2018 In the opening scene, he is pulled off a Rome street and thrown into a van by Red Brigade ruffians, to be held until old man Getty, now a British subject, forks over $17 million for his return, a demand that is refused. Todd Mccarthy, The Hollywood Reporter, "'All the Money in the World': Film Review," 19 Dec. 2017 Whether marauding nomadic tribes or local ruffians provoked Zimri-Lim’s nightmare may finally become clear. Andrew Lawler, Science | AAAS, "Was trading by nomads crucial to the rise of cities?," 19 Dec. 2017

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.

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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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Cite this Entry

“Ruffian.” The Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., Accessed 9 December 2019.

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More Definitions for ruffian


How to pronounce ruffian (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of ruffian

old-fashioned : a strong and violent person (especially a man) who threatens and hurts other people


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

Kids Definition of ruffian

: a violent and cruel person

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More from Merriam-Webster on ruffian

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ruffian

Spanish Central: Translation of ruffian

Nglish: Translation of ruffian for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ruffian for Arabic Speakers

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