kind of large band or frill, stiffly starched, 1520s, originally in reference to sleeves (of collars, from 1550s), probably a shortened form of ruffle (n.). They were especially common in the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Extended to distinctive sets of feathers on the necks of birds from 1690s.
in cards, "trump when unable to follow suit," 1760, from the card game ruff (see ruff (n.2)). Related: Ruffed; ruffing.
in card-playing, "act of trumping when a player has no cards of the suit led," by 1856, from ruff (v.) "trump when unable to follow suit" (1760), from the name of the old game of ruff (1580s), from French roffle, earlier romfle (early 15c.), from Italian ronfa, which is perhaps a corruption of trionfo "triumph" (from French; compare trump (n.1)). The old game, a predecessor of whist, was in vogue c. 1590-1630.
updated on October 18, 2021