in the rough, in a rough, crude, or unfinished state: The country has an exciting potential, but civilization there is still in the rough.
    rough it, to live without the customary comforts or conveniences; endure rugged conditions: We really roughed it on our fishing trip.

Origin of rough

before 1000; Middle English (adj. and noun); Old English rūh (adj.); cognate with Dutch ruig, German rauh
Related formsrough·ly, adverbrough·ness, nouno·ver·rough, adjectiveo·ver·rough·ly, adverbo·ver·rough·ness, noun
Can be confusedrough ruff

Synonyms for rough

Antonyms for rough Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for rough

Contemporary Examples of rough

Historical Examples of rough

British Dictionary definitions for rough



(of a surface) not smooth; uneven or irregular
(of ground) covered with scrub, boulders, etc
denoting or taking place on uncultivated groundrough grazing; rough shooting
shaggy or hairy
turbulent; agitateda rough sea
(of the performance or motion of something) uneven; irregulara rough engine
(of behaviour or character) rude, coarse, ill mannered, inconsiderate, or violent
harsh or sharprough words
informal severe or unpleasanta rough lesson
(of work, a task, etc) requiring physical rather than mental effort
informal ill or physically upsethe felt rough after an evening of heavy drinking
unfair or unjustrough luck
harsh or grating to the ear
harsh to the taste
without refinement, luxury, etc
not polished or perfected in any detail; rudimentary; not elaboraterough workmanship; rough justice
not prepared or dressedrough gemstones
(of a guess, estimate, etc) approximate
Australian informal (of a chance) not good
having the sound of h; aspirated
rough on informal, mainly British
  1. severe towards
  2. unfortunate for (a person)
the rough side of one's tongue harsh words; a reprimand, rebuke, or verbal attack


rough ground
a sketch or preliminary piece of artwork
an unfinished or crude state (esp in the phrase in the rough)
the rough golf the part of the course bordering the fairways where the grass is untrimmed
tennis squash badminton the side of a racket on which the binding strings form an uneven line
informal a rough or violent person; thug
the unpleasant side of something (esp in the phrase take the rough with the smooth)


in a rough manner; roughly
sleep rough to spend the night in the open; be without a home or without shelter


(tr) to make rough; roughen
(tr ; foll by out, in, etc) to prepare (a sketch, report, piece of work, etc) in preliminary form
rough it informal to live without the usual comforts or conveniences of life
Derived Formsroughness, noun

Word Origin for rough

Old English rūh; related to Old Norse ruksa, Middle Dutch rūge, rūwe, German rauh
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 rough

Old English ruh "rough, coarse (of cloth); hairy, shaggy; untrimmed, uncultivated," from West Germanic *rukhwaz "shaggy, hairy, rough" (cf. Middle Dutch ruuch, Dutch ruig, Old High German ruher, German rauh), from Proto-Germanic *rukhaz, from PIE *reue- "to smash, knock down, tear out, dig up" (cf. Sanskrit ruksah "rough;" Latin ruga "wrinkle," ruere "to rush, fall violently, collapse," ruina "a collapse;" Lithuanian raukas "wrinkle," rukti "to shrink").

The original -gh- sound was guttural, as in Scottish loch. Sense of "approximate" is first recorded c.1600. Of places, "riotous, disorderly, characterized by violent action," 1863. Rough draft is from 1690s. Rough-and-ready is from 1810, originally military; rough-and-tumble (1810) is from a style of free-fighting.


late 15c., from rough (adj.). Related: Roughed; roughing. Phrase rough it "submit to hardships" (1768) is originally nautical:

To lie rough; to lie all night in one's clothes: called also roughing it. Likewise to sleep on the bare deck of a ship, when the person is commonly advised to chuse the softest plank. [Grose, "Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue," 1788]

To rough out "shape or plan approximately" is from 1770. To rough up "make rough" is from 1763. To rough (someone) up "beat up, jostle violently" is from 1868. The U.S. football penalty roughing was originally a term from boxing (1866).


c.1200, "broken ground," from rough (adj.). Meaning "a rowdy" is first attested 1837. Specific sense in golf is from 1901. Phrase in the rough "in an unfinished or unprocessed condition" (of timber, etc.) is from 1819.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper

Idioms and Phrases with rough


In addition to the idioms beginning with rough

  • rough and ready
  • rough and tumble
  • rough it
  • rough on, be
  • rough out
  • rough up

also see:

  • diamond in the rough
  • ride roughshod over
  • take the rough with the smooth
  • when the going gets rough
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.