sleep rough

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A man sleeping rough in Denver, Colorado, USA.

From sleep (verb) + rough (in a rough manner, roughly, adverb) (a reference to the uncomfortable situation of sleeping outdoors).[1]



sleep rough (third-person singular simple present sleeps rough, present participle sleeping rough, simple past and past participle slept rough)

  1. (idiomatic) Of a homeless person, to sleep outdoors, particularly as opposed to sleeping in a shelter or similar.
    Synonyms: lie rough, (both dated) live rough
    • 1826, [Walter Scott], chapter IV, in Woodstock; Or, The Cavalier. [], volume II, Edinburgh: [] [James Ballantyne and Co.] for Archibald Constable and Co.; London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, OCLC 991895633, page 93:
      I will warrant they prove such roaring boys as I knew when I served under Lumford and Goring, [...] —sleeping rough on the trenches, and dying stubbornly in their boats. Ah! those merry days are gone.
    • 1902, H[ilaire] Belloc, “Praise of This Book”, in The Path to Rome, New York, N.Y.: Longmans, Green and Co.; London: George Allen, page viii, OCLC 818810774:
      [...] I was quite taken out of myself and vowed a vow there to go to Rome on Pilgrimage and see all Europe which the Christian Faith has saved; and I said, "I will start from the place where I served in arms for my sins; I will walk all the way and take advantage of no wheeled thing; I will sleep rough and cover thirty miles a day, and I will hear Mass every morning; and I will be present at High Mass in St. Peter's on the Feast of St Peter and St Paul."
    • 1926, Rose Macaulay, A Casual Commentary, New York, N.Y.: Boni & Liveright, OCLC 1682242, page 101:
      To be found sleeping in a public place is like being found without visible means of support—an indictable offence. Further, it is an indication of sin. "He sleeps rough"—therefore he is, doubtless, a thief, a drunkard, and a liar. There seems no reason why similar evidence should not be brought in a contrary sense to prove a man's worth.
    • 1975, John Stewart, “Social Services”, in Of No Fixed Abode: Vagrancy and the Welfare State, Manchester: Manchester University Press, →ISBN, page 87:
      There is no evidence that anyone sleeps rough or drinks methanol in Oldham. [...] A voluntary organisation, the Bayswater Housing Association, has recently opened a couple of terraced houses for "the homeless".
    • 1982, Ken Follett, chapter 12, in The Man from St. Petersburg, New York, N.Y.: Penguin Books, published 2017, →ISBN, page 237:
      He was nervy and restless, sick of waiting and sick of hiding. He had slept rough again the last two nights, once in Hyde Park and once under the arches at Charing Cross.
    • 1998 February 3, Jonathan Sayeed, “Rough Sleepers”, in House of Commons Hansard (House of Commons of the United Kingdom)‎[1], volume 305, London: Parliament of the United Kingdom, archived from the original on 4 October 2020:
      I am glad to hear what the Government are doing to reduce the number of people sleeping rough. It is a disgrace that anyone sleeps rough. An average of 3 per cent. of local housing owned by Labour local authorities is unoccupied, and in Islington it is 6 per cent. Why cannot it be used by people who are sleeping rough?
    • 2005, Lucian, “Demonax”, in [Charles] Desmond [Nuttall] Costa, transl., Selected Dialogues, Oxford, Oxfordshire: Oxford University Press, →ISBN, page 152:
      I have written about Sostratus elsewhere, describing his bulk and enormous strength; how he lived in the open air on Parnassus, slept rough, ate what the mountain provided, and performed deeds which matched his name—killing robbers, and making roads through unbroken country and bridges over impassable places.
    • 2008, Sanchita Islam, “The Pink House”, in Sarah Broughton, editor, Gungi Blues, Brentwood, Essex: Chipmunkapublishing, page 47:
      Children ran and played by the roadside while others slept rough on the dirt. Hard skin on feet, blackened toes, tattered shorts, skin and bones.
    • 2018 October 28, “The Observer view on the budget and the decade of austerity”, in The Observer[2], London: Guardian News & Media, ISSN 0029-7712, OCLC 757609252, archived from the original on 19 October 2019:
      But there is perhaps no more visible manifestation of austerity than the disgraceful levels of homelessness we see in Britain today. Tents and mattresses lining the streets of towns and cities across the country, home to people forced to sleep rough, have become an increasingly common sight.

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