[rib-uhld; spelling pronunciation rahy-buhld]


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 formsrib·ald·ly, adverb

Synonyms for ribald

Antonyms for ribald

1. pure.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ribald

Contemporary Examples of ribald

Historical Examples of ribald

  • 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.

  • 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

British Dictionary definitions for ribald



coarse, obscene, or licentious, usually in a humorous or mocking way


a ribald person
Derived Formsribaldly, adverb

Word Origin for ribald

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

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