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[noun ruhf-hous; verb ruhf-hous, -houz] /noun ˈrʌfˌhaʊs; verb ˈrʌfˌhaʊs, -ˌhaʊz/
noun, plural roughhouses
[ruhf-hou-ziz] /ˈrʌfˌhaʊ zɪz/ (Show IPA)
rough, disorderly playing, especially indoors.
verb (used without object), roughhoused
[ruhf-houst, -houzd] /ˈrʌfˌhaʊst, -ˌhaʊzd/ (Show IPA),
[ruhf-hou-sing, -zing] /ˈrʌfˌhaʊ sɪŋ, -zɪŋ/ (Show IPA)
to engage in rough, disorderly play.
verb (used with object), roughhoused
[ruhf-houst, -houzd] /ˈrʌfˌhaʊst, -ˌhaʊzd/ (Show IPA),
[ruhf-hou-sing, -zing] /ˈrʌfˌhaʊ sɪŋ, -zɪŋ/ (Show IPA)
to handle roughly but with playful intent:
to roughhouse the cat.
Origin of roughhouse
An Americanism dating back to 1885-90; rough + house Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for rough-house
Historical Examples
  • By this we mean what can in nowise be so clearly defined as by "rough-house."

    The Dramatic Values in Plautus Wilton Wallace Blancke
  • Nana insisted it was a bruise that Leonie had given her when they were having a bit of a rough-house.

    L'Assommoir Emile Zola
  • "Nice work, Chief--it must be a gift to rough-house the way you do," Bradley exclaimed.

    Triplanetary Edward Elmer Smith
  • In about two seconds there was the biggest kind of a rough-house.

    Owen Clancy's Happy Trail Burt L. Standish
  • My father had saved his life one rough-house night in Valparaiso.

    A Son Of The Sun Jack London
  • I guess you'll get all the rough-house you want, Chub, before we're done.

  • "Nice work, Chief—it must be a gift to rough-house the way you do," Bradley exclaimed.

    Triplanetary Edward Elmer Smith
  • "When they don't put on airs, or get rough-house," replied Trot.

    Sky Island L. Frank Baum
  • Tom, you're at the foot and start the rough-house when you get the tray in the neck.

    Merton of the Movies Harry Leon Wilson
  • Well, let 'em rough-house me if they want to—they's two can play at that game.

    Bat Wing Bowles Dane Coolidge
British Dictionary definitions for rough-house


rough, disorderly, or noisy behaviour
to treat (someone) in a boisterous or rough way
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 rough-house

1887, "uproar, disturbance," from rough (adj.) + house (n.). The verb is first attested 1896. Related: Rough-housing.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for rough-house



: rough-house work for the political boss


  1. Boisterous and rowdy behavior; more or less harmless scuffling (1897+)
  2. Physical violence; mayhem (1887+)


  1. : The kids roughhoused half the night (1900+)
  2. : Gun-toting bodyguards roughhoused Swedish citizens (1902+)
The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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