General English


  • adjective excellent. In this sense the term, probably adapted from or imitating black speech, was used by Californian adolescents in the mid-1990s, often in the form ‘totally rude’.
  • adjective shockingly bad, horrible. In this generalised sense a vogue term among younger British teenagers since 2000. It probably represents an ironic borrowing of an older generation’s term of prissy disapproval.
  • adjective belonging to someone who thinks they’re hard

Origin & History of “rude”

Rude comes via Old French rude from Latin rudis ‘rough, raw’. this seems originally to have denoted ‘rough unpolished stone’ – it was related to Latin rūdus ‘broken stone’ – but its ultimate origins are unknown. From it were derived rudīmentum ‘beginning’ (etymologically ‘raw state’), which has given English rudiment (16th c.), and ērudīre ‘take the roughness out of’, hence ‘polish, teach’, source of English erudite.