ODO: rude {adjective} = 4. {attributive} {chiefly British} Vigorous or hearty

OED: Etymology: < Anglo-Norman rud, Anglo-Norman and Old French, Middle French rude, Old French (Lyons, rare) ruide (French rude) ... (of a person's body) robust, vigorous, strong (1426) ...

I wish to dig deeper than the definition, which I already understand and so ask NOT about. I heed the Etymological Fallacy. What are right ways of interpreting or rationalizing this meaning, in order to intuit or naturalise it, and to help me remember?
Does this definition 4 (of positive connotation) jar with the negative definitions of 'rude' ?

Just as Etymonline and Wordreference.com don't, OED above only states, but doesn't explain, the definition. Above I excerpted OED's lengthy entry; please advise if I should display more.

Footnote: I first encountered this in 'rude health' here, but please beware that I ask about this definition in general, and NOT only this set phrase.

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    Well, ruido is noise in Spanish so there might be a link there.
    – terdon
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 17:40
  • 2
    Peasants are hearty. Peasants are rude. So clearly, rude and hearty mean the same thing. (Note that I don't endorse this logic, but I suspect something like this was behind the change in meaning.) Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 18:00
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    Perhaps this definition of rude comes from OE rudig for ruddy?
    – ScotM
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 18:12
  • ruddy = a healthy reddish color
    – user98990
    Commented Mar 18, 2015 at 22:18
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    Robust language is rude or crude. We also talk about strong language. So the connection goes deeper than this one word.
    – Chris H
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 18:23

4 Answers 4


My sense of it always has been that "rude" is a word that was used either by nobles or, more likely, the rising bourgeoisie to differentiate their social position from that of the peasant, yeoman farmer, shepherd, etc. If your manners and speech are "rude", it's because you lack refinement (and therefore presumably weren't educated well). A "rude hut" would be a shabby one, but the person who lived there wouldn't describe that way.

But then there's also the romantic (i.e., Romantic) notion of the healthy British countryside, especially as opposed to a smoggy, sooty city. Getting up at dawn and taking in a deep breath of salubrious British country air, as a yeoman would do. So, to me—whatever its age or etymology—the word's uses reflect the contradictions of social change and migration from the countryside to the cities.

I was raised to use "impolite"; I guess some people think that to use "rude", unless referring to a structure or other country craftwork, is hillbilly.


The story behind the two different meanings has to do with the way the word "rood", was used in Old Norse. It means "red". Eric Rood, or Eric Rude, is Eric-the-Red.

The association with this & other red-haired Viking devils came to mean something like "rough mannered". But in the North, "ruddy" also meant "in good health", because rosy cheeks meant you weren't anemic, and you were getting plenty of fresh air.

First, due to Germanic influences, the word was Healthrud or Healthrude. One sees this construction in Norse names still, for example, "Haugarud."

We use red in different connotations too. Red is for love; red is for Satan.

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    Hello, Stephanie. It's up to the person submitting an answer on ELU to provide supporting evidence (quotes from etymological dictionaries, encyclopedias ...) so that others may begin to judge how reliable it is. Commented Sep 30, 2016 at 20:08

Perhaps a shared root with 'rudimentary'? Unrefined, crude, hearty, animal health, as alike to animalistic, crude, unrefined behaviour?

I note that rudimentary and rude stem from the Latin rudimentum "early training, first experience, beginning, first principle," from rudis "unlearned, untrained"

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    Hi, can you strengthen your answer by providing the references? Commented Sep 13, 2016 at 16:48
  • 2
    Welcome to ELU.SE. Stack Exchange welcomes knowledgeable answers; it's not a discussion forum. Starting an answer with "Perhaps" tends to invite discussion.
    – Andrew Leach
    Commented Sep 13, 2016 at 16:58
  • 1
    This answer appears to be right. +1. Here's a relevant link:etymonline.com/index.php?allowed_in_frame=0&search=rude
    – Tom Au
    Commented Sep 14, 2016 at 22:45

A clue may be gleaned when taking the meaning having to do with health, within its entire sense in the OED:

a.A.I.6.a Turbulent, violent, boisterous, rough. Chiefly of the sea, winds, etc.
b.A.I.6.b rude air, the open air. Obs.
c.A.I.6.c Of health: Robust, vigorous.

So it may help to think of the word less as merely a synonym for good health, but more toward the "boisterous" as likened to brisk ocean weather and conditions.

We also see this note in the OED heading: "In some ME. and early Sc. texts there appears to be a certain amount of confusion between rude and roid a."

roid, a. Obs. exc. dial.

1.1 Stout, strong; violent, rough.

So we see it mixed at an early time with another similar word whose primary meaning is much closer to what we are after.