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verb (used with object), ruf·fled, ruf·fling.
  1. to destroy the smoothness or evenness of: The wind ruffled the sand.
  2. to erect (the feathers), as a bird in anger.
  3. to disturb, vex, or irritate: to be ruffled by a perceived slight.
  4. to turn (the pages of a book) rapidly.
  5. to pass (cards) through the fingers rapidly in shuffling.
  6. to draw up (cloth, lace, etc.) into a ruffle by gathering along one edge.
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verb (used without object), ruf·fled, ruf·fling.
  1. to be or become ruffled; undulate; flutter: Flags ruffle in the wind.
  2. to be or become vexed or irritated.
  3. to put on airs; swagger.
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  1. a break in the smoothness or evenness of some surface; undulation.
  2. a strip of cloth, lace, etc., drawn up by gathering along one edge and used as a trimming on a dress, blouse, etc.
  3. some object resembling this, as the ruff of a bird.
  4. disturbance or vexation; annoyance; irritation: It is impossible to live without some daily ruffles to our composure.
  5. a disturbed state of mind; perturbation.
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Origin of ruffle1

1250–1300; Middle English ruffelen (v.); cognate with Low German ruffelen to crumple, rumple; compare Old Norse hruffa to scratch
Related formsruf·fly, adjectiveruf·fler, noun


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[ruhf-uh l]
  1. a low, continuous beating of a drum.
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verb (used with object), ruf·fled, ruf·fling.
  1. to beat (a drum) in this manner.
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Origin of ruffle2

1715–25; archaic ruff in same sense (perhaps imitative) + -le
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words

dishevel, rumple, annoy, rattle, disturb, irk, discompose, wrinkle, crease, pucker, rifle, confuse, cockle, crush, derange, crinkle, tousle, purse, tangle, disorder

Examples from the Web for ruffle

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • All right, then; that letter I wrote is a shirt, and the welkin's the ruffle on it.

    Tom Sawyer Abroad

    Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)

  • It is a curious fact, but it is difficult, do you know, for any one to ruffle me.

  • Should she come to harm in the ruffle, where could I get such another?

    Micah Clarke

    Arthur Conan Doyle

  • In fact, there was nothing that the world could do to Him that could ruffle the surface of His spirit.

    Pax Vobiscum

    Henry Drummond

  • A kind of ruffle or frill, worn formerly round the neck—a collar.

    Gomez Arias

    Joaqun Telesforo de Trueba y Coso

British Dictionary definitions for ruffle


  1. to make, be, or become irregular or rumpledto ruffle a child's hair; a breeze ruffling the water
  2. to annoy, irritate, or be annoyed or irritated
  3. (tr) to make into a ruffle; pleat
  4. (of a bird) to erect (its feathers) in anger, display, etc
  5. (tr) to flick (cards, pages, etc) rapidly with the fingers
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  1. an irregular or disturbed surface
  2. a strip of pleated material used for decoration or as a trim
  3. zoology another name for ruff 1 (def. 2)
  4. annoyance or irritation
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Word Origin

C13: of Germanic origin; compare Middle Low German ruffelen to crumple, Old Norse hrufla to scratch


  1. a low continuous drumbeat
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  1. (tr) to beat (a drum) with a low repetitive beat
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Word Origin

C18: from earlier ruff, of imitative origin


  1. (intr) archaic to behave riotously or arrogantly; swagger
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Word Origin

C15: of obscure 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 ruffle


early 14c., "to disturb the smoothness of," perhaps from Old Norse hrufla "to scratch," or Low German ruffelen "to wrinkle, curl," both of unknown origin. Meaning "disarrange" (hair or feathers) first recorded late 15c.; sense of "annoy, distract" is from 1650s. Related: Ruffled; ruffling.

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"ornamental frill," 1707, from ruffle (v.).

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper