Diamond in the Rough | Meaning & Uses

Idioms updated on  January 18, 2024 2 min read
The idiom diamond in the rough refers to something or someone that is unrefined but ultimately good at its core. “Diamond in the rough” is a phrase that entered the lexicon in the 1600s.

An uncut diamond, or diamond in the rough, is much more dull and misshapen than a regular diamond. While it may look unappealing, its value is high; thus, if something is described as “a diamond in the rough,” it is something that appears ordinary but holds great worth.

Examples: Diamond in the rough in a sentence
My uncle might seem grumpy, but he is a diamond in the rough.
The book was a diamond in the rough; though the writing was mediocre, the story was great.
My house has a great foundation but plain decor, making it a real diamond in the rough.

How to use diamond in the rough

“Diamond in the rough” is a phrase used to describe something or someone. As an idiom, it doesn’t literally refer to an uncut diamond but rather something that has hidden beauty.

You use “diamond in the rough” when describing something or someone that is plain or unrefined on the outside but contains good qualities on the inside. This person or thing will usually require a more thorough look to see through its rough exterior (e.g., “My teacher is strict, but her good deeds make her a diamond in the rough”).

The phrase “diamond in the rough” is usually preceded by the indefinite article “a” or by “a”/“an” + an adjective. The plural form is “diamonds in the rough.”

Examples: Diamond in the rough in a sentence
I’ve got no job experience, but I’m in college, making me a diamond in the rough with lots of potential.
The film festival was a failure, but there were a few diamonds in the rough in the mix.
She’s a true diamond in the rough, and I’m warming up to her.

Do you want to know more about commas, parts of speech, email, or other language topics? Check out some of our other language articles full of examples and quizzes.

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At your earliest convenience

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Yours truly

Realise or realize

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Sincerely yours

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Frequently asked questions about diamond in the rough

What is a synonym for diamond in the rough?

Some synonyms or near synonyms for “diamond in the rough” include:

  • Hidden gem
  • Undeveloped talent
  • Underestimated

Is diamond in the rough a compliment?

“Diamond in the rough” can be considered a compliment. If someone calls you this, it means they think you have potential.

When should I use diamond in the rough?

Use the phrase “diamond in the rough” when describing a person or thing that is more sturdy/polite/educated than they look.


Paige Pfeifer

Paige teaches QuillBot writers about grammar rules and writing conventions. She has a BA in English, which she received by reading and writing a lot of fiction. That is all she knows how to do.

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