Etymology
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ribald (adj.)

"offensively abusive, wantonly irreverent, coarse, obscene," of persons, conduct, speech, etc., c. 1500, from obsolete noun ribald, ribaud "a rogue, ruffian, rascall, scoundrell, varlet, filthie fellow" [Cotgrave], mid-13c. (late 12c. as a surname), attested from late 14c. in the sense of "one who uses offensive or impious language, one who jests irreverently."

This is from Old French ribaut, ribalt "rogue, scoundrel, lewd lover," also as an adjective, "wanton, depraved, dissolute, licentious," a word of uncertain origin, perhaps (with suffix -ald) from riber "be wanton, sleep around, dally amorously," from a Germanic source (compare Old High German riban "be wanton," literally "to rub," possibly from the common euphemistic use of "rub" words in venery, from Proto-Germanic *wribanan from PIE root *wer- (2) "to turn, bend").

Other early adjectival forms were ribaldous "riotous, unruly" (c. 1400); ribaldy (early 15c.).

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ribaldry (n.)

late 14c., ribaudrie, "debauchery, bawdy speech, obscenity or coarseness of language," from Old French ribauderie "debauchery, licentiousness," from ribalt (see ribald). An earlier noun was ribaudie (late 13c.), from Old French ribaudie.

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gambol (n.)

"frolic, merrymaking," 1590s, earlier gambolde "a skipping, a leap or spring" (1510s), from French gambade (15c.), from Late Latin gamba "horse's hock or leg," from Greek kampē "a bending" (on notion of "a joint"); see campus. Ending altered perhaps by confusion with formerly common ending -aud, -ald (as in ribald).

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*wer- (2)

Proto-Indo-European root forming words meaning "to turn, bend."

It forms all or part of: adverse; anniversary; avert; awry; controversy; converge; converse (adj.) "exact opposite;" convert; diverge; divert; evert; extroversion; extrovert; gaiter; introrse; introvert; invert; inward; malversation; obverse; peevish; pervert; prose; raphe; reverberate; revert; rhabdomancy; rhapsody; rhombus; ribald; sinistrorse; stalwart; subvert; tergiversate; transverse; universe; verbena; verge (v.1) "tend, incline;" vermeil; vermicelli; vermicular; vermiform; vermin; versatile; verse (n.) "poetry;" version; verst; versus; vertebra; vertex; vertigo; vervain; vortex; -ward; warp; weird; worm; worry; worth (adj.) "significant, valuable, of value;" worth (v.) "to come to be;" wrangle; wrap; wrath; wreath; wrench; wrest; wrestle; wriggle; wring; wrinkle; wrist; writhe; wrong; wroth; wry.

It is the hypothetical source of/evidence for its existence is provided by: Sanskrit vartate "turns round, rolls;" Avestan varet- "to turn;" Hittite hurki- "wheel;" Greek rhatane "stirrer, ladle;" Latin vertere (frequentative versare) "to turn, turn back, be turned; convert, transform, translate; be changed," versus "turned toward or against;" Old Church Slavonic vrŭteti "to turn, roll," Russian vreteno "spindle, distaff;" Lithuanian verčiu, versti "to turn;" German werden, Old English weorðan "to become;" Old English -weard "toward," originally "turned toward," weorthan "to befall," wyrd "fate, destiny," literally "what befalls one;" Welsh gwerthyd "spindle, distaff;" Old Irish frith "against."

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harlotry (n.)

late 14c., "loose, crude, or obscene behavior; sexual immorality; ribald talk or jesting," from harlot + -ry.

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gaff (n.2)

"talk," 1812, in phrase blow the gaff "spill a secret," of uncertain origin. OED points out Old English gafspræc "blasphemous or ribald speech," and Scottish gaff "loud, rude talk" (by 1825). Compare gaffe.

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bee's knees (n.)

1923, a survivor of a fad around this year for slang terms denoting "excellence" and based on animal anatomy. Also existed in the more ribald form bee's nuts. Other versions that lasted through the century are cat's whiskers (1923), cat's pajamas, cat's meow. More obscure examples are canary's tusks, cat's nuts and flea's eyebrows. The fad still had a heartbeat in Britain at the end of the century, as attested by the appearance of dog's bollocks in 1989. Bee's knee was used as far back as 1797 for "something insignificant."

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bun (n.)

"small, slightly sweetened roll or biscuit," late 14c., of obscure and much-disputed origin; perhaps [Skeat] from Old French buignete "a fritter," originally "a boil, a swelling," diminutive of buigne "swelling from a blow, bump on the head," from a Germanic source (compare Middle High German bunge "clod, lump"), or from Gaulish *bunia (compare Gaelic bonnach; see bannock). Spanish buñelo "a fritter" apparently is from the same source.

Of hair coiled at the back of the head, first attested 1894. To have a bun in the oven "be pregnant" is from 1951. The modern popular use of buns in the sense of "male buttocks" is from 1960s, perhaps from a perceived similarity; but bun also meant "tail of a hare" (1530s) in Scottish and northern England dialect and was transferred to human beings (and conveniently rhymed with nun in ribald ballads). This may be an entirely different word; OED points to Gaelic bun "stump, root."

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scold (n.)

mid-12c., "person of ribald speech;" c. 1300, "person fond of chiding abusive language," especially a shrewish woman [Johnson defines the noun as "A clamourous, rude, mean, low, foul-mouthed woman"], from Old Norse skald "poet" (see skald).

The sense evolution might reflect the fact that Germanic poets (like their Celtic counterparts) were famously feared for their ability to lampoon and mock (as in skaldskapr "poetry," also, in Icelandic law books, "libel in verse").

The noun meaning "act of scolding" is by 1726 but seems not to have been in common use. In old law, common scold (Latin communis rixatrix) is from late 15c.

We have not sufficient adjudications to enable us to define this offence with certainty ; but probably a definition substantially correct is the following : A common scold is one, who, by the practice of frequent scolding, disturbs the repose of the neighborhood. [Joel Prentiss Bishop, "Commentaries on the Criminal Law," Boston, 1858]
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