c. 1300, "having a rough, hairy, or shaggy surface" (originally of animals), a word probably of Scandinavian origin: compare Old Norse rogg "shaggy tuft" (see rug). "The precise relationship to ragged is not quite clear, but the stem is no doubt ultimately the same" [OED]. In Middle English ruggedy (late 14c.) also was used.
Of ground, "broken, stony," by 1650s. Of made things, "strongly constructed, able to withstand rough use," by 1921. By 1620s, especially of persons or their qualities, as "unsoftened by refinement or cultivation," thence "of a rough but strong or sturdy character" (by 1827). The specific meaning "vigorous, strong, robust, healthy," is American English, attested by 1847.
We were challenged with a peace-time choice between the American system of rugged individualism and a European philosophy of diametrically opposed doctrines — doctrines of paternalism and state socialism. [Herbert Hoover, speech in New York, Oct. 22, 1928]
Hoover said the phrase was not his own, and it is attested from 1897, though not in a patriotic context. Related: Ruggedly; ruggedness.
"one who lives near another," Middle English neighebor, from Old English neahgebur (West Saxon), nehebur (Anglian) "one who dwells nearby," from neah "near" (see nigh) + gebur "dweller," related to bur "dwelling," from Proto-Germanic *(ga)būraz (from PIE root *bheue- "to be, exist, grow"). A common Germanic compound (cognates: Old Saxon nabur, Middle Dutch naghebuur, Dutch (na)bur, Old High German nahgibur, Middle High German nachgebur, German Nachbar). Good neighbor policy is attested by 1937, but good neighbor with reference to U.S. policy toward Latin America was used by 1928 by Herbert Hoover.
by 1987, abbreviation for neo-conservative in the U.S. political sense.
Neoconservatism is the first variant of American conservatism in the past century that is in the 'American grain.' It is hopeful, not lugubrious; forward-looking, not nostalgic; and its general tone is cheerful, not grim or dyspeptic. Its 20th-century heroes tend to be TR, FDR, and Ronald Reagan. Such Republican and conservative worthies as Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, and Barry Goldwater are politely overlooked. [Irving Kristol, "The Neoconservative Persuasion," in The Weekly Standard, Aug. 25, 2003]