Definition of ruffian in English:



  • A violent person, especially one involved in crime.

    • ‘As the proportion of homicides committed with firearms surged, even the swaggering ruffians of local bars may have thought twice before challenging any and all onlookers.’
    • ‘He too, the boy thinks, has known hard times: the bully on the next block, the ruffians in his third grade class.’
    • ‘And he had traveled many places, heard rumors of all sorts, and been threatened by ruffians and rogues who would have stolen from him or killed him; he had felt fear then.’
    • ‘But Morgan makes enemies right away when he foils a mugging by a gang of local ruffians.’
    • ‘Within a few hours even the toughest of the tough ruffians would break down and start confessing.’
    • ‘The tactics of the violent ruffians failed in this year's election.’
    • ‘A few days earlier a ruffian had snatched a woman's chain.’
    • ‘Obviously, it was a case of collusion between the state and the lawbreaking ruffians.’
    • ‘Good heavens, you could have been killed going into a den of ruffians like that.’
    • ‘Albert is a regular at this place, bringing along his gang of ruffians and louts to watch him eat sloppily and hurl insults at everyone that walks by.’
    • ‘In early twentieth-century Chicago, where guns were readily available, local ruffians were less inclined to announce that they would abide no disrespect or take on all corners.’
    • ‘This first feature filmed in Irish follows the tale of an aging producer of poitin (the Irish equivalent of moonshine) and the two young ruffians who rob him.’
    • ‘These were not wild-eyed, rabble-rousing ruffians.’
    • ‘Even the tsotsis, the unkempt street ruffians of the 1930s, began to embrace the quest for style in the 1950s.’
    • ‘No cooked food could be sold, and shops were not to shelter ruffians, thieves, or prostitutes.’
    • ‘Well, so long as he could hide his emotions when they crossed paths with the thieves - bullies and ruffians were always drawn to the fearful.’
    • ‘They used to say soccer is a gentleman's game played by ruffians and rugby is a ruffian's game played by gentlemen.’
    • ‘On New Year's Day 1753 an eighteen-year-old London maidservant called Elizabeth Canning was abducted in the City by two ruffians.’
    • ‘Vidocq served a lucrative apprenticeship with various ruffians, vagabonds and swindlers.’
    • ‘He was, in fact, a leader of a gang of Essex ruffians, whose speciality was robbery with violence.’
    thug, scoundrel, villain, rogue, rascal, lout, hooligan, hoodlum, vandal, delinquent, rowdy, bully boy, bully, brute
    tough, bruiser, heavy, gorilla, yahoo
    rough, yob, yobbo, bovver boy, lager lout, chav, hoodie
    keelie, ned
    hood, goon
    roughie, hoon
    View synonyms


Late 15th century: from Old French ruffian, from Italian ruffiano, perhaps from dialect rofia scab, scurf of Germanic origin.