RUFFIAN (Fr. rufian, It. ruffiano), a brutal, violent person, a swaggering, low bully. The etymology is obscure, but the word has been connected with " ruffler," a bully, swaggerer, one who "ruffles" (M. Du. rqffeln, to pander). An early derivation, quoted in Du Cange, derives it from Lat. rufus, red, as the hair of the meretrices, with whom the ruffiani were generally associated, was red or gold, as contrasted with the black hair of sober matrons.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)