- a tough, lawless person; roughneck; bully.
- Also ruf·fi·an·ly. tough; lawless; brutal.
Origin of ruffian
SynonymsSee more synonyms on Thesaurus.com
Examples from the Web for ruffian
We know the governor, despite his popularity and his toe-dips into bipartisanship, has a reputation as a ruffian.Is Chris Christie from Jersey or Jupiter?
January 19, 2014
It will be seen that I treat of the Thief and Ruffian as one.
The Ruffian becomes one of the established orders of the body politic.
I demand to have the Ruffian kept out of my way, and out of the way of all decent people.
I certainly was bound by no law to allow a ruffian to cut me down, unresisting.The Room in the Dragon Volant
J. Sheridan LeFanu
It is you're the ruffian to him, snubbing him when he speaks good-naturedly to you.The Macdermots of Ballycloran
- a violent or lawless person; hoodlum or villain
Word Origin and History for ruffian
1530s, "a boisterous, brutal fellow, one ready to commit any crime," from Middle French rufian "a pimp" (15c.), from Italian ruffiano "a pander, pimp," of uncertain origin, perhaps from a Germanic source related to rough (adj.), but Dutch roffiaan, German Ruffian are said to be from French. English meaning might have been influenced by similarity of sound to rough. Related: Ruffianly.
The Romanic words (e.g. Medieval Latin ruffianus, Provençal rufian, Catalan rufia, Spanish rufian) preserve the sense of "protector or owner of whores." For sense evolution in English, cf. bully (n.).