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See also: Ruff



A 1724 mezzotint of Sir John Coke (1563–1644) wearing a ruff (sense 1) around his neck
Two male ruffs (Philomachus pugnax (syn. Calidris pugnax); sense 3.1) in their breeding plumage. During the mating season, male birds develop a distinctive ruff (sense 3.2) around their necks, and ear-tufts.

Etymology 1[edit]

Clipping of ruffle, or possibly from rough.


ruff (plural ruffs)

  1. A circular frill or ruffle on a garment, especially a starched, fluted frill at the neck in Elizabethan and Jacobean England (1560s–1620s).
  2. Anything formed with plaits or flutings like a frill.
  3. Senses relating to animals.
    1. Philomachus pugnax (syn. Calidris pugnax), a gregarious, medium-sized wading bird of Eurasia; specifically, a male of the species which develops a distinctive ruff of feathers and ear tufts during mating season (the female is called a reeve).
    2. (ornithology) A set of lengthened or otherwise modified feathers on or around the neck of a bird.
    3. (zoology) A collar of lengthened or distinctively coloured fur on or around the neck of an animal.
  4. (engineering) A collar on a shaft or other piece to prevent endwise motion.
  5. (obsolete) An exhibition of haughtiness or pride.
  6. (obsolete) Tumultuous or wanton conduct or procedure.
    • 1549 March 15, Hugh Latimer, “The Second Sermon of Master Hugh Latimer, which He Preached before the King’s Majesty, within His Grace’s Palace at Westminster, the Fifteenth Day of March, 1549”, in George Elwes Corrie, editor, The Works of Hugh Latimer, sometime Bishop of Worcester, Martyr, 1555. Edited for the Parker Society, by the Rev. George Elwes Corrie, B.D. [...], volume I, Cambridge: Printed at the University Press, published 1844, OCLC 796947594, pages 108–109:
      Thou must not pill and poll thy tenant, that thou mayest have, as they say, Unde, and that thy never enough, to ruffle it out in a riotous ruff, and a prodigal, dissolute, and licentious living.


ruff (third-person singular simple present ruffs, present participle ruffing, simple past and past participle ruffed)

  1. (transitive) To shape (fabric, etc.) into a ruff; to adorn (a garment, etc.) with a ruff.
  2. (transitive, falconry) Of a falcon, hawk, etc.: to hit (the prey) without fixing or grabbing hold of it.
  3. (rare, transitive) To ruffle; to disorder.
  4. (obsolete, transitive) Of a bird: to ruffle its feathers.
  5. (obsolete, transitive) To boast, to brag.
  6. (obsolete, intransitive) To speak in a loud and domineering manner; to bluster, to swagger.

Etymology 2[edit]

The Eurasian ruff or ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernua or Gymnocephalus cernuus; sense 1)
The ruff or Australian herring (Arripis georgianus; sense 2)

Possibly from rough.


ruff (plural ruffs)

  1. Alternative spelling of ruffe: a small freshwater fish of the genus Gymnocephalus; specifically the Eurasian ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernua or Gymnocephalus cernuus) which has spiny fins; the pope.
  2. Arripis georgianus, a fish found in cool waters off the southern coast of Australia; the Australian herring.
  3. (obsolete) A bottom-dwelling carnivorous fish of the genus Sparidae found in temperate and tropical waters; a porgy or sea bream.
  • (Australian herring (Arripis georgianus)): roughy

Etymology 3[edit]

From Old French roffle, rouffle (earlier romfle, ronfle), or from Italian ronfa (card game similar to whist); these words are possibly from Old French triomphe (a triumph, victory), Italian trionfo (triumph; trump card),[1] from Latin triumphus (hymn to Bacchus; celebration, triumph), ultimately from Ancient Greek θρῐ́ᾰμβος (thríambos, hymn to Dionysius, thriambus). The verb is derived from the noun.


ruff (third-person singular simple present ruffs, present participle ruffing, simple past and past participle ruffed) (card games)

  1. (transitive, intransitive) To play a trump card to a trick when unable to follow suit (that is, to play a card of the same suit as the previous or leading card). [late 16th c.]
  2. (transitive) Especially in the form ruff out: to defeat (a card, etc.) by ruffing, thus establishing the master card in the suit led.
Derived terms[edit]


ruff (plural ruffs) (card games)

  1. A instance of ruffing, or an opportunity to ruff, when unable to follow suit. [late 16th c.]
  2. (obsolete) A game similar to whist and its predecessor. [late 16th c.]

Etymology 4[edit]



ruff (plural ruffs)

  1. (music, often military) A low, vibrating beat of a drum, quieter than a roll; a ruffle.


ruff (third-person singular simple present ruffs, present participle ruffing, simple past and past participle ruffed) (music, often military)

  1. (transitive) To beat a ruff or ruffle, as on a drum.
  2. (intransitive) Of a drum, etc.: to have a ruff or ruffle beaten on it.



  1. The bark of a dog; arf, woof.

Etymology 5[edit]


ruff (comparative ruffer, superlative ruffest)

  1. (colloquial) Alternative spelling of rough.


  1. ^ Compare “ruff” (US) / “ruff” (UK) in Oxford Dictionaries, Oxford University Press.

Further reading[edit]