Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. Characterized by or indulging in vulgar, lewd humor.
  • n. A vulgar, lewdly funny person.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. Coarsely, vulgarly or lewdly humorous.
  • n. A person who is filthy or vulgar.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Low; base; mean; filthy; obscene.
  • n. A low, vulgar, brutal, foul-mouthed wretch; a lewd fellow.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A low, base fellow; a profligate; a ruffian; a person of lewd habits: applied particularly to one who is coarse, abusive, or obscene in language.
  • Licentious; profligate; obscene; coarse; abusive or indecent, especially in language; foul-mouthed.
  • Synonyms Gross, coarse, filthy, indecent.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. humorously vulgar
  • n. a ribald person; someone who uses vulgar and offensive language

Etymologies

From Middle English ribaud, ribald person, from Old French, from riber, to be wanton, of Germanic origin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English, from Old French ribaud, ribauld ("rogue, scoundrel") ( > French ribaud), from riber ("to be licentious"), from Frankish *rīben ("to copulate, be in heat", literally "to rub"), from Proto-Germanic *wrībanan (“to turn, twist”), from Proto-Indo-European *werp-, *werb- (“to turn, twist”) + Old French -auld, from Old Frankish *-wald. Cognate with Old High German rīban ("to rub"), Dutch wrijven ("to rub"). Compare also Old High German hrība ("prostitute"). More at wrap. (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • Despite the heat and the stagnant air, one of the toilers found breath to croak a ribald buccaneering ditty:

    Captain Blood

  • He said that he was a God-fearing man, and meant to do right, and was willing to take his chances in the lottery of war, but when a man got him to ride a circus trick-horse, and bring upon his sacred calling the ribald laughter of the wicked, he felt that civilization was a failure.

    How Private George W. Peck Put Down The Rebellion or, The Funny Experiences of a Raw Recruit - 1887

  • Only once had his eye flashed fire and his cheek burned, and his right hand unconsciously sought where his weapon should have hung, when his noble brother was termed a ribald assassin, an excommunicated murderer; but quickly he checked that natural emotion, and remained collected as before.

    The Days of Bruce Vol 1 A Story from Scottish History

  • A final thought -- I would suggest that the Judicial Council refrain from using the term "ribald" to describe the jokes in question.

    Karen Thalacker: "Have You Heard the One About the Judge Who Told Ribald Jokes ..."

  • I don't think that you are aware what "ribald" means. '

    The Hand of Ethelberta

  • At Gloucester, to which the duke had brought the parliament in 1378, in the hope of escaping from the interference of the "ribald" Londoners, (630) Brembre was arraigned on a charge of having connived during his recent mayoralty at an attack made on the house of the duke’s younger brother, Thomas of Woodstock, Earl of

    London and the Kingdom - Volume I

  • Shameless is what you might expect of a no-holds-barred family drama on pay cable: reckless, raw and always a bit much — especially when it comes to a preposterous character like Joan Cusack as a neurotic, agoraphobic, psycho/nympho housewife who we first meet when Lip tutors her daughter in sessions that go predictably ribald.

    Roush Review: A Super Busy TV Sunday

  • The wedding of two B-list stars somehow makes for A-list news, which explains why I'm writing this post about the weekend nuptials of saucy pop songstress Katy Perry and ribald, hirsute British comedian Russell Brand.

    Katy Perry and Russell Brand marry in India

  • I thought the book was more urban than urbane, more ribald than refined, but Armageddon Bound was a fun read.

    Rabid Reads: "Armageddon Bound" by Tim Marquitz

  • Parkin, the subject of much ribald comment from opposing supporters, weighs in around the 14 stone mark and when he joined the club a photograph of him in a kebab shop was widely circulated on the fans 'websites.

    Preston need more magical nights after suffering 49 years of hurt

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  • "Here among the stone passages were all the symptoms of ribald excitement." From Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake.

    February 12, 2011

  • This word frightens me every time I encounter it, entirely because of Ambrose Bierce's use of it in this passage from A Fruitless Assignment:

    "Ladies and gentlemen," he said, coolly, "you see me under suspicious circumstances, but"--his voice was drowned in peals of laughter--such laughter as is heard in asylums for the insane. The persons about him pointed at the object in his hand and their merriment increased as he dropped it and it went rolling among their feet. They danced about it with gestures grotesque and attitudes obscene and indescribable. They struck it with their feet, urging it about the room from wall to wall; pushed and overthrew one another in their struggles to kick it; cursed and screamed and sang snatches of ribald songs as the battered head bounded about the room as if in terror and trying to escape. At last it shot out of the door into the hall, followed by all, with tumultuous haste. That moment the door closed with a sharp concussion. Saylor was alone, in dead silence.

    I had nightmares about this scene for years.

    October 23, 2007