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See also: rüffle


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From Middle English ruffelen, perhaps from Old Norse hrufla (to graze, scratch) or Middle Low German ruffelen (to wrinkle, curl). Further origin unknown. Related to Middle Dutch ruyffelen, German Low German ruffeln. See English ruff.


  • IPA(key): /ˈɹʌfəl/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʌfəl


ruffle (plural ruffles)

  1. Any gathered or curled strip of fabric added as trim or decoration.
    She loved the dress with the lace ruffle at the hem.
    • 1837, L[etitia] E[lizabeth] L[andon], “A Matrimonial Tête-à-Tête”, in Ethel Churchill: Or, The Two Brides. [], volume II, London: Henry Colburn, [], →OCLC, page 169:
      His dress was splendid; his hands glittered with rings, his snuff-box was covered with diamonds, and his ruffles were of the finest Mechlin lace.
    • 1977, Agatha Christie, chapter 4, in An Autobiography, part II, London: Collins, →ISBN:
      Mind you, clothes were clothes in those days. []   Frills, ruffles, flounces, lace, complicated seams and gores: not only did they sweep the ground and have to be held up in one hand elegantly as you walked along, but they had little capes or coats or feather boas.
  2. Disturbance; agitation; commotion.
    to put the mind in a ruffle
  3. (military) A low, vibrating beat of a drum, quieter than a roll; a ruff[1].
  4. (zoology) The connected series of large egg capsules, or oothecae, of several species of American marine gastropods of the genus Fulgur.


Derived terms[edit]



ruffle (third-person singular simple present ruffles, present participle ruffling, simple past and past participle ruffled)

  1. (transitive) To make a ruffle in; to curl or flute, as an edge of fabric.
    Ruffle the end of the cuff.
  2. (transitive) To disturb; especially, to cause to flutter.
    The wind ruffled the papers.
    Her sudden volley of insults ruffled his composure.
    • 1697, Virgil, “Palamon and Arcite”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC:
      She [] smoothed the ruffled seas.
    • 1832, [Isaac Taylor], Saturday Evening. [], London: Holdsworth and Ball, →OCLC:
      the fantastic revelries [] that so often ruffled the placid bosom of the Nile
    • 1859, Alfred Tennyson, “Guinevere”, in Idylls of the King, London: Edward Moxon & Co., [], →OCLC, pages 227–228:
      But, ever after, the small violence done / Rankled in him and ruffled all his heart, / As the sharp wind that ruffles all day long / A little bitter pool about a stone / On the bare coast.
    • 1860, Sir William Hamilton, Sir William Hamilton, 9th Baronet:
      These ruffle the tranquillity of the mind.
    • 1972, Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, Knopf, page 114:
      "Ladies and gentlemen," said Mr. Wonka, coming up close and raising both hands for silence. "Please, I beg you, do not ruffle yourselves! There's nothing to worry about."
    • 2018 February 24, Paul Rees, “Finn Russell masterminds historic Scotland victory over England”, in The Guardian[1], London, archived from the original on 22 April 2018:
      [Finn] Russell created his side’s three first-half tries, ruffling a defence known for its composure, and dictated the match from the off.
  3. (intransitive) To grow rough, boisterous, or turbulent.
  4. (intransitive) To become disordered; to play loosely; to flutter.
    • 1697, Virgil, “The Third Book of the Georgics”, in John Dryden, transl., The Works of Virgil: Containing His Pastorals, Georgics, and Æneis. [], London: [] Jacob Tonson, [], →OCLC:
      On his right shoulder his thick mane ', / Ruffles at speed, and dances in the wind.
  5. (intransitive) To be rough; to jar; to be in contention; hence, to put on airs; to swagger.
  6. To make into a ruff; to draw or contract into puckers, plaits, or folds; to wrinkle.
  7. To erect in a ruff, as feathers.
    • 1842, Alfred Tennyson, “Morte d’Arthur”, in Poems. [], volume II, London: Edward Moxon, [], →OCLC, page 16:
      [T]he barge with oar and sail / Moved from the brink, like some full-breasted swan / That, fluting a wild carol ere her death, / Ruffles her pure cold plume, and takes the flood / With swarthy webs.
  8. (military) To beat with the ruff or ruffle, as a drum.
  9. To throw together in a disorderly manner.

Derived terms[edit]



  1. ^ 1863, Henry Lee Scott, Military Dictionary