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Origin of gruff

1525–35; < Middle Dutch grof coarse; cognate with German grob
Related formsgruff·ish, adjectivegruff·ly, adverbgruff·ness, nounun·gruff, adjective

Synonyms for gruff

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2. curt.

Antonyms for gruff Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for gruff

Contemporary Examples of gruff

Historical Examples of gruff

  • “Seventeen, an it please your grace,” said Stephen, in the gruff voice of his age.

    The Armourer's Prentices

    Charlotte M. Yonge

  • I could hear the voice of a woman and then the gruff tones of a man.

    The Underdog

    F. Hopkinson Smith

  • A gruff voice from the doorway broke harshly in upon a measure.

    Meadow Grass

    Alice Brown

  • I want you to tell me why Mr Haredale—oh, how gruff he is again, to be sure!

    Barnaby Rudge

    Charles Dickens

  • Bismarck leaned over and in his gruff way asked, “Give me a match!”

    Blood and Iron

    John Hubert Greusel

British Dictionary definitions for gruff


  1. rough or surly in manner, speech, etca gruff reply
  2. (of a voice, bark, etc) low and throaty
Derived Formsgruffish, adjectivegruffly, adverbgruffness, noun

Word Origin for gruff

C16: originally Scottish, from Dutch grof, of Germanic origin; compare Old High German girob; related to Old English hrēof, Lithuanian kraupùs
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

Word Origin and History for gruff

1530s, "coarse, coarse-grained," from Middle Dutch or Middle Low German grof "coarse (in quality), thick, large," of uncertain origin, regarded by some as related to Old English hreof, Old Norse hrjufr "rough, scabby," with Germanic completive prefix ga-. Sense of "rough, surly" recorded by 1690s. Related: Gruffness.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper