un·​couth | \ ən-ˈküth How to pronounce uncouth (audio) \

Definition of uncouth

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

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Other Words from uncouth

uncouthly adverb
uncouthness noun

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.

Examples of uncouth in a Sentence

People thought he was uncouth and uncivilized. will not tolerate any uncouth behavior, such as eating with one's mouth open
Recent Examples on the Web The Atlas also has a smooth and steady ride on the highway, but broken pavement revealed the suspension's uncouth response to harsh impacts as well as the cabin's lack of noise isolation. Eric Stafford, Car and Driver, "The 2021 Volkswagen Atlas Satisfies the Brady Bunches of America and Bolsters VW's Bottom Line," 15 May 2020 The sequel features too much of the tow truck Mater—a caricature of an uncouth American—who gets mistaken for an international spy while accompanying his best friend Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) on an European car rally. Joyce Bautista Ferrari, Marie Claire, "All 21 Disney Pixar Movies, Ranked From Worst to Best," 21 Oct. 2019 The fabled avenger trains an uncouth protege to drive a Spanish tyrant out of California once and for all. Los Angeles Times, "Movies on TV for Oct. 6-12: ‘Throne of Blood’ and more," 4 Oct. 2019 That effectively makes The Boys a niche project, an leeringly uncouth cousin to The Handmaid's Tale and Catastrophe and Amazon's other award-winning series. Peter Rubin, WIRED, "Amazon's The Boys Tests the Limits of Superhero Fatigue," 26 July 2019 Lonely singles on the wedding circuit, a 1930s bank robber on the run and an uncouth millennial adrift in Brooklyn. Ellen Gamerman, WSJ, "Five Movies Bound to Make Noise at the Tribeca Film Festival," 17 Apr. 2019 The Resistance is the Mob, and Mr. Trump represents the bracingly uncouth primacy of the earlier republic. Lance Morrow, WSJ, "The Trump War Is a Boomer Battle," 27 Aug. 2018 In his lifetime, Wojnarowicz became a star, though an unconventional one, unsmooth, unpredictable, unstylish even, with his clotted paint, uncouth symbols, and jabbing ideas and words. New York Times, "He Spoke Out During the AIDS Crisis. See Why His Art Still Matters.," 12 July 2018 John Gallagher, the only gentleman in this fraternity of uncouth louts, is immediately drawn to Betty Broadbent, the bright 15-year-old daughter of the woman who manages the hotel where the journalists are camped out. Marilyn Stasio, New York Times, "Fans of Easy Rawlins and Leonid McGill, Meet Joe King Oliver," 13 Feb. 2018

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.

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First Known Use of uncouth

before the 12th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a

History and Etymology for 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 entry 1

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The first known use of uncouth was before the 12th century

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Last Updated

27 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Uncouth.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/uncouth. Accessed 10 Jul. 2020.

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More Definitions for uncouth


How to pronounce uncouth (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of uncouth

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


un·​couth | \ ˌən-ˈküth How to pronounce uncouth (audio) \

Kids Definition of uncouth

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on uncouth

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for uncouth

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with uncouth

Spanish Central: Translation of uncouth

Nglish: Translation of uncouth for Spanish Speakers

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