1 : marked by or suggestive of flashy vulgarity or crudeness
2 : marked by a careless unconventionality : rakish
Did You Know?
"Raffish" sounds like it should mean "resembling raff." But what is raff? Originally, "raff" was a word meaning "rubbish"; it derived from Middle English "raf," and it was being used for trash and refuse back in the 1400s. Around a century later, English speakers were also using the word "riffraff" to mean "disreputable characters" or "rabble." The origins of "riffraff" are distinct from the "rubbish" sense of "raff"; "riffraff" derived from an Anglo-French phrase meaning "one and all." By the mid-1500s, the similarities between "raff" and "riffraff" had prompted people to start using the two words as synonyms, and "raff" gained a "rabble" sense. It was that ragtag "raff" that gave rise to the adjective "raffish" in the late 1700s.
Gina often seemed to be attracted to the raffish and rebellious boys, rather than the quiet intellectuals in her classes.
"They rode a bus a few stops and got off in the raffish suburb of Chelsea, a low-rent neighborhood of artists and writers." -- From Ken Follett's 2010 novel Fall of Giants
Test Your Vocabulary with M-W Quizzes
Test Your Vocabulary
In his book The South Seas, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, "I had met the man before this in the village, and detested him on sight; there was something indescribably raffish in his looks and ways that raised my gorge…." What is the meaning of "gorge"? The answer is ...
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