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



ruffian (plural ruffians)

  1. A scoundrel, rascal, or unprincipled, deceitful, brutal and unreliable person.
    Synonyms: rogue, scamp; see also Thesaurus:troublemaker
    • (Can we date this quote?) Shakespeare
      Wilt thou on thy deathbed play the ruffian?
    • 1894, George du Maurier, Trilby[1], page 259:
      "It was at Count Siloszech's. He'd heard her sing in the streets, with a tall, black-bearded ruffian, who accompanied her on a guitar, and a little fiddling gypsy fellow. She was a handsome woman, with hair down to her knees, but stupid as an owl. []"
  2. (obsolete) A pimp; a pander.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:pimp
  3. (obsolete) A lover; a paramour.
    • (Can we date this quote?) Bishop Reynolds
      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.
    • (Can we date this quote?) 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 The imported definitions may be significantly out of date, and any more recent senses may be completely missing.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.

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