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Recorded since c.1330, as Middle English rascaile ("people of the lowest class, rabble of an army"), derived from 12th century Old French rascaille ("outcast, rabble") (modern French racaille), perhaps from rasque ("mud, filth, scab, dregs"), from Vulgar Latin *rasic? ("to scrape"). The singular form is first attested in 1461; the present extended sense of "low, dishonest person" is from early 1586.



rascal (plural rascals)

  1. A dishonest person; a rogue, a scoundrel, a trickster.
    • 1601, Ben Jonson, Poetaster or The Arraignment: [...], London: Printed [by R. Bradock] for M[atthew] L[ownes] [...], published 1602, OCLC 316392309, Act III, scene iv:
      Tuc[ca]. [...] Can thy Author doe it impudently enough? / Hist[rio]. O, I warrant you, Captaine: and spitefully inough too; he ha's one of the most ouerflowing villanous wits, in Rome. He will slander any man that breathes; If he disgust him. / Tucca. I'le know the poor, egregious, nitty Rascall; and he haue such commendable Qualities, I'le cherish him: [...]
  2. Sometimes diminutive: a cheeky person or creature; a troublemaker.
    That little rascal bit me!
    If you have deer in the area, you may have to put a fence around your garden to keep the rascals out.
  3. (Papua New Guinea) A member of a criminal gang.



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rascal (comparative more rascal, superlative most rascal)

  1. (archaic) Low; lowly, part of or belonging to the common rabble.


Derived terms

Further reading


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