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[rib-uh ld; spelling pronunciation rahy-buh ld] /ˈrɪb əld; spelling pronunciation ˈraɪ bəld/
vulgar or indecent in speech, language, etc.; coarsely mocking, abusive, or irreverent; scurrilous.
a ribald person.
Origin of ribald
1200-50; Middle English ribald, ribaud (noun) < Old French ribau(l)d, equivalent to rib(er) to be licentious (< Old High German rīben to copulate, be in heat, literally, rub) + -au(l)d, -alt < Frankish *-wald a suffix in personal names, derivative of *walden to rule; compare parallel development of -ard
Related forms
ribaldly, adverb
1. indecent, obscene, gross.
1. pure. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for ribald
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • A cry of surprise was raised, and drowned in a volley of ribald inquiry and chaff.

    The Black Bag Louis Joseph Vance
  • But yesternight that ribald mocked him with his lack of scars.

    The Sea-Hawk Raphael Sabatini
  • All his life Alexander had been the victim of the most ribald calumnies.

    The Life of Cesare Borgia Raphael Sabatini
  • Logan raised his voice to repeat the words and to add a ribald comment.

    Nan of Music Mountain Frank H. Spearman
  • Mr. Harding showed that he had a large repertoire of ribald rhyme.

    The Wrong Woman

    Charles D. Stewart
  • "Heed not their ribald scoffs," said Montagu Percy, loftily.

    The Telegraph Boy Horatio Alger, Jr.
  • We must do our best to be frivolous and ribald, and supply a proper foreground.

  • Not a few of the fabliaux are cynically gross—ribald but not voluptuous.

British Dictionary definitions for ribald


coarse, obscene, or licentious, usually in a humorous or mocking way
a ribald person
Derived Forms
ribaldly, adverb
Word Origin
C13: from Old French ribauld, from riber to live licentiously, of Germanic origin
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ribald

c.1500, from ribald, ribaud (n.), mid-13c., "a rogue, ruffian, rascall, scoundrell, varlet, filthie fellow" [Cotgrave], from Old French ribaut, ribalt "rogue, scoundrel, lewd lover," also as an adjective, "wanton, depraved, dissolute, licentious," of uncertain origin, perhaps (with suffix -ald) from riber "be wanton, sleep around, dally amorously," from a Germanic source (cf. Old High German riban "be wanton," literally "to rub," possibly from the common euphemistic use of "rub" words to mean "have sex"), from Proto-Germanic *wribanan, from PIE root *wer- (3) "to turn, bend" (see versus).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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