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From Middle French rufian, from Italian ruffiano (pimp).


  • IPA(key): /ˈɹʌfi.ən/
  • (file)
  • Hyphenation: ruf‧fi‧an


ruffian (plural ruffians)

  1. A scoundrel, rascal, or unprincipled, deceitful, brutal and unreliable person.
    Synonyms: rogue, scamp; see also Thesaurus:troublemaker
  2. (obsolete) A pimp; a pander.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:pimp
  3. (obsolete) A lover; a paramour.
    • 1621, John Reynolds, The Triumphs of God's Revenge against the crying and execrable Sinne of Murther
      He [her husband] is no sooner abroad than she is instantly at home, revelling with her ruffians.



ruffian (third-person singular simple present ruffians, present participle ruffianing, simple past and past participle ruffianed)

  1. To play the ruffian; to rage; to raise tumult.
    • 1603, Shakespeare, Othello, Act II, Scene I
      Methinks the wind does speak aloud at land; A fuller blast ne'er shook our battlements. If it hath ruffianed so upon the sea.


ruffian (comparative more ruffian, superlative most ruffian)

  1. Brutal; cruel; savagely boisterous; murderous.
    ruffian rage

Part or all of this entry has been imported from the 1913 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, which is now free of copyright and hence in the public domain. The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.
(See the entry for ruffian in
Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, G. & C. Merriam, 1913.)





ruffian m (plural ruffians)

  1. Alternative spelling of rufian
    • 1943, Jean Ray, Malpertuis, 1978 ed., p. 8
      Il n'y a que la fortune pour faire d'un ruffian un honnête homme, soumis aux lois humaines.

Further reading[edit]