• synonyms


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.
Show More
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.
Show More
  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.
Show More

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




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

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 ruffling

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • She seemed to get it too clearly cut, there was no ruffling.

    The Good Soldier

    Ford Madox Ford

  • I said, ruffling up my fur and my tail, for I was very angry.

  • Then she had three rolls of ruffling, yards and yards in each piece.

    A Little Girl in Old New York

    Amanda Millie Douglas

  • Ruffling the surface of the water for a few seconds, it passed away.


    R.M. Ballantyne

  • "This at least you may spare us," said Cornelia, ruffling offended.

British Dictionary definitions for ruffling


  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
Show More
  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
Show More

Word Origin

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


  1. a low continuous drumbeat
Show More
  1. (tr) to beat (a drum) with a low repetitive beat
Show More

Word Origin

C18: from earlier ruff, of imitative origin


  1. (intr) archaic to behave riotously or arrogantly; swagger
Show More

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 ruffling



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.

Show More



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

Show More
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper