Definition from Wiktionary, the free dictionary
Jump to navigation Jump to search



From Middle Dutch grof (coarse). Cognate to Low German groff, Dutch grof, and German grob. The American Heritage Dictionary relates it to a hypothetical Proto-Germanic "ga-hrub-", related to *hreubaz (rough, scabby, scrubby).



gruff (comparative gruffer, superlative gruffest)

  1. having a rough, surly, and harsh demeanor and nature.
  2. hoarse-voiced.


  • 1727 "The manner of it was more after the pleasing Transports of those ancient Poets you are often charm'd with, than after the fierce unsociable way of modern Zealots; those starch'd gruff Gentlemen, who guard Religion as Bullys to a Mistress, and give us the while a very indifferent Opinion of their Lady's Merit, and their own Wit, by adoring what they neither allow to be inspected by others, nor care themselves to examine in a fair light." — Anthony Ashley Cooper Shaftesbury. Characteristicks of men, manners, opinions, times. Vol II. p218
  • 1729 "They had no Titles of Honour among them, but such as denoted some Bodily Strength or Perfection, as such an one the Tall, such an one the Stocky, such an one the Gruff." — Joseph Addison, Richard Steele. The Spectator. Vol VI, No 433. p146
  • 1825 "Mr. Suberville, as well as she, surprised and pleased at this proof of politeness so unsuited to his gouty appearance and gruff manners, looked at him in astonishment, but were sorry to perceive him stoop down as if he had strained his leg in the exertion, while the pain it caused seemed to have driven every drop of his blood into his sallow face." — Thomas Colley Grattan. High-ways and by-ways. Vol III. p209-10

Derived terms[edit]



gruff (third-person singular simple present gruffs, present participle gruffing, simple past and past participle gruffed)

  1. To speak gruffly.
    • 2001, Benny Hinn, He Touched Me: An Autobiography
      “Who gave you that?” replied my father angrily. “Did you bribe someone?” “No,” I told him. “It was a gift, from some people who really want me to be on this trip.” “Fine,” he gruffed.



gruff n

  1. argument, quarrel