I am looking for an adjective that can be used to describe a 'thug'. Seeing that toughish isn't in most dictionaries (nor did I expect it to be, but an entry in a thesaurus would have been nice), nor do the synonyms of tough really do a 'thug' justice, I came to you guys for assistance.

I don't want to be too blunt and call him a thug, nor too mild by employing a euphenism, so i'm opting for the -ish form of a noun such as in "He was acting childish" etc., etc. Only "He was acting thuggish" doesn't really quite make the cut.

Crude? Too mild.
Violent? Too harsh.
Uncultured? Too way off the mark.

Honestly, I don't think I've ever encountered this much difficulty in choosing a word before.

If I don't get some killa ideas on here I'm gonna hafta gofer the good 'ol "He was actin all ghetto".

  • Why would you go for tough-ish and not just tough? What about tough as it relates to your usage made you want to add "-ish"? – Jim Dec 15 '15 at 23:09
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    What's wrong with thuggish? You don't say why you reject it. Are you looking for a word to modify the noun thug, so that thuggish thug wouldn't do? – TRomano Dec 15 '15 at 23:31
  • How about stern? – ermanen Dec 16 '15 at 0:24
  • Consider "rogue". – Graffito Dec 16 '15 at 0:26


Resembling, befitting, or being typical of a brute [Webster's]

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    Can you cite which Webster edition it is? As I checked, it says "brute or beast". Did you omit that part? – ermanen Dec 16 '15 at 3:18
  • Yes. It didn't seem necessary. But that's checkin' the facts! – Stu W Dec 16 '15 at 3:37

Brutish is good for ending in -ish. I'm not sure how much of a requirement that is. Here are a few that don't end in -ish that I think work really well for thugs (links go to Dictionary.com definitions):

  1. Pugnacious - this is my favorite; a person who is ready to fight, it also reminds me of this question.

  2. Bellicose - this means warlike; someone who is loud and blustering

  3. Belligerent - another favorite; this is how I imagine I behave when I am aggressively drunk

All of the above focus on the thuggish-ness of thugs in the sense of people who are mainly muscle at the command of their leader. Otherwise, if you are set on -ish, then my last suggestion is

  1. Churlish - a mean person.

This word is more broadly applicable to the surly, narrow-minded, ill-natured aspect of thuggery. It would not apply to thugs with a sense of humor, for instance.

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You said you don't want to bluntly call him a thug - so just imply that he's acting like a thug. ;)

Another possibility is bullyish. People who look or act tough are sometimes referred to as Neanderthals (a little ironic as our species very likely wiped out the Neanderthals).

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Without seeing your sentence, I'd go with confrontational which is somewhere in the middle in that it can refer to both a physical or verbal altercation.

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If you go with plan B, gangster is a bit more accessible than ghetto:


mobster, hoodlum, crook, thug; hood, goon.

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