[ ruhf-uhn-tuhm-buhl ]
See synonyms for rough-and-tumble on
  1. characterized by violent, random, disorderly action and struggles: a rough-and-tumble fight; He led an adventuresome, rough-and-tumble life.

  2. given to such action.

  1. rough and unrestrained competition, fighting, struggling, etc.

Origin of rough-and-tumble

First recorded in 1785–95

Words Nearby rough-and-tumble Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2024

How to use rough-and-tumble in a sentence

  • A good man mixes with the world in the rough-and-tumble, and takes his share of the dangers, and the falls, and the temptations.

    God and my Neighbour | Robert Blatchford
  • Then it was that they had time to observe what had escaped their notice in the rough-and-tumble of the mêlée.

    Colonial Born | G. Firth Scott
  • Maybe it was more practical than rough-and-tumble individualism.

    The Planet Strappers | Raymond Zinke Gallun
  • The former had hurt one of her forefeet on the previous day during the "rough-and-tumble" descending into the valley.

    The Home of the Blizzard | Douglas Mawson
  • I know it is, said Locke with a sigh, as he thought of his own rough-and-tumble practice.

    The Boss of Wind River | David Goodger (

British Dictionary definitions for rough-and-tumble


  1. a fight or scuffle without rules

  1. characterized by roughness, disorderliness, and disregard for rules or conventions

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

Other Idioms and Phrases with rough-and-tumble


Disorderly scuffling or infighting, as in She had some reservations about entering the rough and tumble of local politics. This expression originated in the late 1700s in boxing, where it referred to a fight without rules. [Mid-1800s]

The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.