Definitions

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

  • n. A tough or rowdy person.
  • n. A thug or gangster.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A scoundrel, rascal, or unprincipled, deceitful, brutal and unreliable person.
  • v. To play the ruffian; to rage; to raise tumult.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Brutal; cruel; savagely boisterous; murderous.
  • n. A pimp; a pander; also, a paramour.
  • n. A boisterous, cruel, brutal fellow; a desperate fellow ready for murderous or cruel deeds; a cutthroat.
  • n. A tough, lawless or bullying person.
  • intransitive v. To play the ruffian; to rage; to raise tumult.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. . A pimp; a pander; a paramour.
  • n. A boisterous, brutal fellow; a fellow ready for any desperate crime; a robber; a cutthroat; a murderer.
  • n. . The devil.
  • Licentious; lascivious: wanton.
  • Lawless and cruel; brutal: murderous; inhuman: villainous.
  • Violent; tumultuous; stormy.
  • To play the ruffian; rage; raise tumult.

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

  • n. a cruel and brutal fellow

Etymologies

French, pimp, from Old French rufien, from Old Proven├žal rufian, from Old Italian ruffiano.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • It does not appear, however, that the term ruffian is altogether misplaced.

    Lectures and Essays

  • Uncle Angelo had a brother, Salvatore, who was known as a ruffian by most men in the streets.

    This Family of Mine

  • The Countess preserves her impenetrable composure; nothing in her betrays the deadly hatred with which she regards the titled ruffian who has insulted her.

    The Haunted Hotel: A Mystery of Modern Venice

  • He didn't like Ceorl, not even a little, but the ruffian was a good man to have along in a brawl.

    Rulers of the Darkness

  • I was surprised-because while I'll do anything, myself, he didn't strike me as the sort who'd lower himself to being a whore's ruffian, which is what it amounted to.

    Flashman and The Redskins

  • But the ruffian is a good fellow in comparison with these well-dressed, polite scoundrels, who could have given Fielding a hint or two he would have been glad of for the characters of Mr. Jonathan Wild and his friend the Count.

    Anahuac : or, Mexico and the Mexicans, Ancient and Modern

  • She characterized him as a "jug-guzzler," a "swashbuckler," and a "ruffian" -- and smiled as she recalled the picturesque figure with the clean-cut, bronzed face.

    The Gold Girl

  • At hearing her husband called a ruffian by another woman the shadow of resentment passed across Mrs. Hughs 'face, leaving it quivering and red.

    Complete Project Gutenberg John Galsworthy Works

  • The ruffian has been a marked man by the keepers and police, they tell me, for the last year or more.

    Marcella

  • Now, as to Casey: he has been described as a ruffian and villain of irredeemable depravity - desperate to the last degree.

    The Vigilance Committee of 1856

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Comments

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  • Ruffiano, in Italian, is a pander.

    September 12, 2008

  • British slang - "The devil. Cant - May the Ruffian nab the cuffin queer, and let the harmanbeck trine with his kinchins about his colquarron; may the Devil take the justice, and let the constable be hanged with his children about his neck."
    - Francis Grose, 'The Vulgar Tongue'.

    September 12, 2008