Roughly is an adverb with two different meanings. It means “almost” or “approximately” and it also means “in a violent manner” or “without precision”. You may remember this second meaning from the adjective rough.
• It will take roughly three hours to get there.
• The bully pushed his victim roughly and demanded his pocket money.
• The kid colored his drawing roughly inside the lines.
Expression often used with roughly
“roughly speaking”: this means you are giving an approximation.
There were fifty people at the party, roughly speaking.
There are four dozen apples on my tree, roughly speaking.
The cost of building your house will be 200.000 dollars roughly speaking.
Did You know?
Roughly and approximately mean the same thing, but approximately is more formal.
More or less is less formal and is very common.
Nearly is also used to mean something similar to roughly, except that nearly always means ‘almost.’ For example, if we had 47 people at a party, we could say there were roughly 50 people or we could say there were nearly 50 people, but if we had 52 people at the party, we could only say there were roughly 50 people, since 52 is more than 50.
In pop culture
In the animated movie Beauty and the Beast, the character Gaston, in the song about him, boasts of being roughly the size of a barge (a barge is a kind of boat used on canals). You can hear the whole song, read the lyrics:
Roughly comes from the adjective rough, which dates back to before 1000 and comes from the Old English word rūh. It is similar to Dutch word ruig and the German word rauh. It was first used as an adjective around the year 1300, but it only became a synonym of approximately in the mid-19th century.
Other forms: rough as ADJECTIVE
a) If a surface is rough, it is uneven and not smooth.
His hands were rough and calloused, from years of karate practice.
Grace made her way slowly across the rough ground.
b) You say that people or their actions are rough when they use too much force and not enough care or gentleness.
Rugby’s a rough game at the best of times.
They have complained of discrimination and occasional rough treatment.
c) A rough area, city, school, or other place is unpleasant and dangerous because there is a lot of violence or crime there.
It was quite a rough part of our town.
d) If you say that someone has had a rough time, you mean that they have had some difficult or unpleasant experiences.
All women have a rough time in our society.
Tomorrow, he knew, would be a rough day.
e) If you feel rough, you feel ill.
[British, informal] Example:
The virus won’t go away and the lad is still feeling a bit rough.
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