adjective, rock·i·er, rock·i·est.

  1. full of or abounding in rocks.
  2. consisting of rock.
  3. rocklike: wood with a rocky hardness.
  4. firm; steadfast: rocky endurance.
  5. unfeeling; without sympathy or emotion: my rocky heart.

adjective, rock·i·er, rock·i·est.

  1. inclined or likely to rock; tottering; shaky; unsteady.
  2. difficult or uncertain; full of hazards or obstacles: a business with a rocky future.
  3. physically unsteady or weak, as from sickness.


  1. a male given name.

adjective rockier or rockiest

  1. consisting of or abounding in rocksa rocky shore
  2. hard or unyieldingrocky determination
  3. hard like rockrocky muscles

adjective rockier or rockiest

  1. weak, shaky, or unstable
  2. informal (of a person) dizzy; sickly; nauseated


  1. geology any aggregate of minerals that makes up part of the earth’s crust. It may be unconsolidated, such as a sand, clay, or mud, or consolidated, such as granite, limestone, or coalSee also igneous, sedimentary, metamorphic
  2. any hard mass of consolidated mineral matter, such as a boulder
  3. mainly US, Canadian and Australian a stone
  4. a person or thing suggesting a rock, esp in being dependable, unchanging, or providing firm foundation
  5. British a hard sweet, typically a long brightly-coloured peppermint-flavoured stick, sold esp in holiday resorts
  6. slang a jewel, esp a diamond
  7. short for rock salmon
  8. (plural) slang the testicles
  9. slang another name for crack (def. 29)
  10. between a rock and a hard place having to choose between two equally unpleasant alternatives
  11. on the rocks
    1. in a state of ruin or destitution
    2. (of drinks, esp whisky) served with ice


  1. to move or cause to move from side to side or backwards and forwards
  2. to reel or sway or cause (someone) to reel or sway, as with a violent shock or emotion
  3. (tr) to shake or move (something) violently
  4. (intr) to dance in the rock-and-roll style
  5. mining to wash (ore) or (of ore) to be washed in a cradle
  6. (tr) to roughen (a copper plate) with a rocker before engraving a mezzotint
  7. (tr) slang, mainly US to impress by wearing (an item of clothing) or playing (a musical instrument)She can still rock a miniskirt; He rocks a guitar like nobody’s business
  8. rock the boat informal to create a disturbance in the existing situation


  1. a rocking motion
  2. short for rock and roll
  3. Also called: rock music any of various styles of pop music having a heavy beat, derived from rock and roll

noun the Rock

  1. an informal name for Gibraltar
  2. a Canadian informal name for Newfoundland

“full of rocks,” c.1400, from rock (n.1) + -y (2); “unsteady,” 1737, from rock (v.1). Meaning “difficult, hard” is recorded from 1873, and may represent a bit of both.

The Rocky Mountains so called by 1802, translating French Montagnes Rocheuses, first applied to the Canadian Rockies. “The name is not directly self-descriptive but is an approximate translation of the name of the former Native American people here known as the Assiniboin …. The mountains are in fact not noticeably rocky” [Room]. Bright notes that “These Indians were called /assiniipwaan/, lit. ‘stone Sioux’, by their Cree (Algonkian) neighbors”.


“stone, mass of mineral matter,” c.1300, from Old English rocc (e.g. stanrocc “stone rock or obelisk”) and directly from Old North French roque, which is cognate with Medieval Latin rocca (8c.), from Vulgar Latin *rocca, of uncertain origin, according to Klein sometimes said to be from Celtic (cf. Breton roch).

In Middle English it seems to have been used principally for rock formations as opposed to individual stones. Meaning “precious stone, especially a diamond,” is 1908, U.S. slang. Meaning “crystallized cocaine” is attested from 1973, in West Coast U.S. slang. Figurative use for “sure foundation” (especially with reference to Christ) is from 1520s; but also from 1520s as “source of danger or destruction,” in reference to shipwrecks (e.g. on the rocks). Also used attributively in names of animals that frequent rocky habitats, e.g. rock lobster (1843). Between a rock and a hard place first attested 1921:

to be between a rock and a hard place, vb. ph. To be bankrupt. Common in Arizona in recent panics; sporadic in California. [“Dialect Notes,” vol. V, part iv, 1921]

Rock-ribbed is from 1776, originally of land; figurative sense of “resolute” first recorded 1887. Rock-happy (1945) was U.S. Pacific Theater armed forces slang for “mentally unhinged after too much time on one island.” The rock-scissors-paper game is attested by that name from 1976; from 1968 as paper-stone-scissors. A 1967 source says it is based on Japanese Jan Ken Pon (or Janken for short), which is said to mean the same thing more or less.


“to sway,” late Old English roccian “move a child gently to and fro,” related to Old Norse rykkja “to pull, tear, move,” Swedish rycka “to pull, pluck,” Middle Dutch rucken, Old High German rucchan, German rücken “to move jerkily.”

Meaning “cause to sway back and forth” is from late 13c. Intransitive sense from late 14c. For popular music senses, see rock (v.2). Related: Rocked; rocking. To rock the boat in the figurative sense “stir up trouble” is from 1914. Rock-a-bye first recorded 1805 in nursery rhyme.


“to dance to popular music with a strong beat,” 1948 (first attested in song title “We’re gonna rock”), from rock (v.1), in earlier blues slang sense of “to cause to move with musical rhythm” (1922); often used at first with sexual overtones (cf. 1922 song title “My Man Rocks Me (with One Steady Roll)”). Sense developed early 1950s to “play or dance to rock and roll music.” Related: Rocked; rocking. Rocksteady, Jamaican pop music style (precursor of reggae), is attested from 1969.


“action of rocking; a movement to and fro,” 1823, from rock (v.1). As short for rock and roll, by 1957; but sense of “musical rhythm characterized by a strong beat” is from 1946, in blues slang. Rock star attested by 1966.

  1. American gynecologist and obstetrician who helped develop the first effective oral contraceptive in 1954.

  1. A relatively hard, naturally occurring mineral material. Rock can consist of a single mineral or of several minerals that are either tightly compacted or held together by a cementlike mineral matrix. The three main types of rock are igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic.
  2. A piece of such material; a stone.

In addition to the idioms beginning with rock

  • rock bottom
  • rocks in one’s head, have
  • rock the boat

also see:

  • between a rock and a hard place
  • on the rocks
  • steady as a rock

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