adjective un·couth \ ən-ˈküth \

Definition of uncouth

1 a archaic : not known or not familiar to one : seldom experienced : uncommon, rare
b obsolete : mysterious, uncanny
2 a : strange or clumsy in shape or appearance : outlandish
b : lacking in polish and grace : rugged
  • uncouth verse
c : awkward and uncultivated in appearance, manner, or behavior : rude





uncouth was our Word of the Day on 01/24/2017. Hear the podcast!

Examples of uncouth in a Sentence

  1. People thought he was uncouth and uncivilized.

  2. will not tolerate any uncouth behavior, such as eating with one's mouth open

Recent Examples of uncouth from the Web

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

History of uncouth: From Unfamiliar to Outlandish

Uncouth comes from the Old English word uncūth, which joins the prefix un- with cūth, meaning "familiar" or "known." How did a word that meant "unfamiliar" come to mean "outlandish," "rugged," or "rude"? Some examples from literature illustrate that the transition happened quite naturally. In Captain Singleton, Daniel Defoe refers to "a strange noise more uncouth than any they had ever heard." In William Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Orlando tells Adam, "If this uncouth forest yield anything savage, I will either be food for it or bring it for food to thee." In Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Ichabod Crane fears "to look over his shoulder, lest he should behold some uncouth being tramping close behind him!" So, that which is unfamiliar is often perceived as strange, wild, or unpleasant. Meanings such as "outlandish," "rugged," or "rude" naturally follow.

Origin and Etymology of uncouth

Middle English, from Old English uncūth, from un- + cūth familiar, known; akin to Old High German kund known, Old English can know — more at can

UNCOUTH Defined for English Language Learners


Definition of uncouth for English Language Learners

  • : behaving in a rude way : not polite or socially acceptable

UNCOUTH Defined for Kids


adjective un·couth \ ˌən-ˈküth \

Definition of uncouth for Students

: impolite in conduct or speech : crude
  • uncouth manners
  • uncouth people

History for uncouth

The word uncouth first meant “unknown” or “strange.” It goes back to Old English uncūth, made up of un-, “not,” and cūth, “known,” which is related to modern English can and know.

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