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

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 Baker carefully turns this kid’s depressive, uncouth world into a wonderland. A.o. Scott & Wesley Morris, New York Times, "The 10 Best Actors of the Year," 7 Dec. 2017 Several critics blamed the uncouth crowd in attendance; others wrote it off as lighthearted amusement. Adam Gustafson, Smithsonian, "The Soprano Who Upended Americans’ Racist Stereotypes About Who Could Sing Opera," 8 Feb. 2017 Today, Americans describe China as Europeans once described the United States—as an uncouth land of opportunity and rising economic might. Yoni Appelbaum, The Atlantic, "Is the American Idea Doomed?," 10 Oct. 2017 The plays staged by the army were inevitably politically charged, with soldiers portraying George Washington as a bumbling, uncouth figure and offering flattery for the British soldiers. Lorraine Boissoneault, Smithsonian, "Ten Fun Facts About the Original Patriots," 3 Feb. 2017

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

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Time Traveler for uncouth

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

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More Definitions for uncouth



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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with uncouth

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for uncouth

Spanish Central: Translation of uncouth

Nglish: Translation of uncouth for Spanish Speakers

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