[ ruhf-ee-uhn, ruhf-yuhn ]
See synonyms for ruffian on
  1. a tough, lawless person; roughneck; bully.

  1. Also ruf·fi·an·ly. tough; lawless; brutal.

Origin of ruffian

1525–35; <Middle French <Italian ruffiano, perhaps <Langobardic *hruf scurf + Italian -ano-an

Other words for ruffian

Words Nearby ruffian Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023

How to use ruffian in a sentence

  • Up the slope they dashed, and past the place where Matt and Clip had had their encounter with Jem and the other ruffian.

    Motor Matt's "Century" Run | Stanley R. Matthews
  • It was hard work to keep his hands off the ruffian who was one of the main causes of the trouble.

    The Weight of the Crown | Fred M. White
  • At length one bold ruffian came near her, but was struck dead at her feet by a thunderbolt.

British Dictionary definitions for ruffian


/ (ˈrʌfɪən) /

  1. a violent or lawless person; hoodlum or villain

Origin of ruffian

C16: from Old French rufien, from Italian ruffiano, perhaps related to Langobardic hruf scurf, scabbiness

Derived forms of ruffian

  • ruffianism, noun
  • ruffianly, adjective

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