Printable Version
Pronunciation: rog Hear it!

Part of Speech: Noun

Meaning: 1. A dishonest, unprincipled person; a scoundrel, as in rogues' gallery. 2. An individual that deserts its kind and sets out on a destructive path, as a rogue elephant. 3. A mischievous trouble-maker with an inclination for practical jokes. 4. An anomalous organism, plant or animal, displaying an undesirable trait.

Notes: The history of this word shows that it began its life rather innocently, developed into a very strong term, and today is growing milder in its usage. It comes with a large family of derivations: an adjective roguish, the nouns roguedom, referring to the class of rogues collectively, and roguery, the knavishness that characterizes rogues. Today roguery generally refers to mischief sooner than mayhem.

In Play: Rogues are generally bad people: "Sal McGundy's watch was stolen by a masked rogue in the park who greeted Sal, 'It's Rolex time!'" But then, the Devil is also bad yet a devilish smile and a roguish smile are pretty much the same, a smile suggestive of mild trickery or deceit that is more humorous than threatening. "In the boardroom, Mick Stupp is a rogue who loves to throw a monkey wrench into the discussion just to see what confusion he can cause."

Word History: The problem this word raises for etymologists is that it has too many possible origins without sufficient evidence to establish any. In the mid-sixteenth century a vagrant or mendicant pretending to be a poor Oxford or Cambridge scholar was known as a roger, pronounced [ro-gêr] so that merely dropping the [êr] would give us our pronunciation. However, it looks more like French rogue "arrogant, haughty". There is also a Celtic term rog "haughty" used at that time in Breton, the original language of Brittany. By 1859, however, the dishonesty of wandering rogues led this word to the stronger sense it has in the phrase "rogues' gallery", the photographs of criminals kept by the police. (Thank you Larry Brady for suggesting the name Sal McGundy.)

Dr. Goodword,

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