in the rough

adjective, rough·er, rough·est.

  1. having a coarse or uneven surface, as from projections, irregularities, or breaks; not smooth: rough, red hands; a rough road.
  2. shaggy or coarse: a dog with a rough coat.
  3. (of an uninhabited region or large land area) steep or uneven and covered with high grass, brush, trees, stones, etc.: to hunt over rough country.
  4. acting with or characterized by violence: Boxing is a rough sport.
  5. characterized by unnecessary violence or infractions of the rules: It was a rough prize fight.
  6. violently disturbed or agitated; turbulent, as water or the air: a rough sea.
  7. having a violently irregular motion; uncomfortably or dangerously uneven: The plane had a rough flight in the storm.
  8. stormy or tempestuous, as wind or weather.
  9. sharp or harsh: a rough temper.
  10. unmannerly or rude: his rough and churlish manner; They exchanged rough words.
  11. disorderly or riotous: a rough mob.
  12. difficult or unpleasant: to have a rough time of it.
  13. harsh to the ear; grating or jarring, as sounds.
  14. harsh to the taste; sharp or astringent: a rough wine.
  15. coarse, as food.
  16. lacking culture or refinement: a rough, countrified manner.
  17. without refinements, luxuries, or ordinary comforts or conveniences: rough camping.
  18. requiring exertion or strength rather than intelligence or skill: rough manual labor.
  19. not elaborated, perfected, or corrected; unpolished, as language, verse, or style: a rough draft.
  20. made or done without any attempt at exactness, completeness, or thoroughness; approximate or tentative: a rough guess.
  21. crude, unwrought, nonprocessed, or unprepared: rough rice.
  22. Phonetics. uttered with aspiration; having the sound of h; aspirated.


  1. something that is rough, especially rough ground.
  2. Golf. any part of the course bordering the fairway on which the grass, weeds, etc., are not trimmed.
  3. the unpleasant or difficult part of anything.
  4. anything in its crude or preliminary form, as a drawing.
  5. Chiefly British. a rowdy; ruffian.


  1. in a rough manner; roughly.

verb (used with object), roughed, rough·ing.

  1. to make rough; roughen.
  2. to give a beating to, manhandle, or subject to physical violence (often followed by up): The mob roughed up the speaker.
  3. to subject to some rough, preliminary process of working or preparation (often followed by down, off, or out): to rough off boards.
  4. to sketch roughly or in outline (often followed by in or out): to rough out a diagram; to rough in the conversation of a novel.
  5. Sports. to subject (a player on the opposing team) to unnecessary physical abuse, as in blocking or tackling: The team was penalized 15 yards for roughing the kicker.

verb (used without object), roughed, rough·ing.

  1. to become rough, as a surface.
  2. to behave roughly.
  1. in the rough, in a rough, crude, or unfinished state: The country has an exciting potential, but civilization there is still in the rough.
  2. rough it, to live without the customary comforts or conveniences; endure rugged conditions: We really roughed it on our fishing trip.


  1. (of a surface) not smooth; uneven or irregular
  2. (of ground) covered with scrub, boulders, etc
  3. denoting or taking place on uncultivated groundrough grazing; rough shooting
  4. shaggy or hairy
  5. turbulent; agitateda rough sea
  6. (of the performance or motion of something) uneven; irregulara rough engine
  7. (of behaviour or character) rude, coarse, ill mannered, inconsiderate, or violent
  8. harsh or sharprough words
  9. informal severe or unpleasanta rough lesson
  10. (of work, a task, etc) requiring physical rather than mental effort
  11. informal ill or physically upsethe felt rough after an evening of heavy drinking
  12. unfair or unjustrough luck
  13. harsh or grating to the ear
  14. harsh to the taste
  15. without refinement, luxury, etc
  16. not polished or perfected in any detail; rudimentary; not elaboraterough workmanship; rough justice
  17. not prepared or dressedrough gemstones
  18. (of a guess, estimate, etc) approximate
  19. Australian informal (of a chance) not good
  20. having the sound of h; aspirated
  21. rough on informal, mainly British
    1. severe towards
    2. unfortunate for (a person)
  22. the rough side of one’s tongue harsh words; a reprimand, rebuke, or verbal attack


  1. rough ground
  2. a sketch or preliminary piece of artwork
  3. an unfinished or crude state (esp in the phrase in the rough)
  4. the rough golf the part of the course bordering the fairways where the grass is untrimmed
  5. tennis squash badminton the side of a racket on which the binding strings form an uneven line
  6. informal a rough or violent person; thug
  7. the unpleasant side of something (esp in the phrase take the rough with the smooth)


  1. in a rough manner; roughly
  2. sleep rough to spend the night in the open; be without a home or without shelter


  1. (tr) to make rough; roughen
  2. (tr ; foll by out, in, etc) to prepare (a sketch, report, piece of work, etc) in preliminary form
  3. rough it informal to live without the usual comforts or conveniences of life

Old English ruh “rough, coarse (of cloth); hairy, shaggy; untrimmed, uncultivated,” from West Germanic *rukhwaz “shaggy, hairy, rough” (cf. Middle Dutch ruuch, Dutch ruig, Old High German ruher, German rauh), from Proto-Germanic *rukhaz, from PIE *reue- “to smash, knock down, tear out, dig up” (cf. Sanskrit ruksah “rough;” Latin ruga “wrinkle,” ruere “to rush, fall violently, collapse,” ruina “a collapse;” Lithuanian raukas “wrinkle,” rukti “to shrink”).

The original -gh- sound was guttural, as in Scottish loch. Sense of “approximate” is first recorded c.1600. Of places, “riotous, disorderly, characterized by violent action,” 1863. Rough draft is from 1690s. Rough-and-ready is from 1810, originally military; rough-and-tumble (1810) is from a style of free-fighting.


late 15c., from rough (adj.). Related: Roughed; roughing. Phrase rough it “submit to hardships” (1768) is originally nautical:

To lie rough; to lie all night in one’s clothes: called also roughing it. Likewise to sleep on the bare deck of a ship, when the person is commonly advised to chuse the softest plank. [Grose, “Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue,” 1788]

To rough out “shape or plan approximately” is from 1770. To rough up “make rough” is from 1763. To rough (someone) up “beat up, jostle violently” is from 1868. The U.S. football penalty roughing was originally a term from boxing (1866).


c.1200, “broken ground,” from rough (adj.). Meaning “a rowdy” is first attested 1837. Specific sense in golf is from 1901. Phrase in the rough “in an unfinished or unprocessed condition” (of timber, etc.) is from 1819.

see diamond in the rough.

In addition to the idioms beginning with rough

  • rough and ready
  • rough and tumble
  • rough it
  • rough on, be
  • rough out
  • rough up

also see:

  • diamond in the rough
  • ride roughshod over
  • take the rough with the smooth
  • when the going gets rough
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