diamond in the rough


diamond in the rough (US)
also, rough diamond (UK)


  • someone or something of high quality but undeveloped.
  • describe something or someone possessing great potential but currently lacking refinement or being in a raw state.
  • a person who is better than they appear to be based on their behavior and appearance.

Example Sentences

  1. I found an old coin while gardening. I think it’s a diamond in the rough.
  2. You don’t know about Olivia; trust me, she’s a diamond in the rough.
  3. Emma is going to be an international artist one day. She is a real diamond in the rough.


The phrase derives its roots from a literal action concerning diamonds. In their natural state, diamonds are not the sparkling, cut, and polished gems we see in jewelry. Instead, they are dull and rough, almost unrecognizable. However, proper cutting and polishing reveal their true beauty and worth. Hence the analogy of the diamond in the rough—an entity with inherent value and potential yet to be revealed.

While it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly who coined this phrase, it’s an old English expression. The earliest written usage can be traced to John Fletcher’s play, “A Wife for a Month,” published in 1624. In it, a character exclaims, “She is very honest and will be as hard to cut as a rough diamond.” This statement clearly shows the origin of the term and its intended metaphor.

Over the centuries, the phrase “diamond in the rough” has kept its original meaning. However, it has been presented in various forms due to regional dialects and language evolution. The term has become universal, extending beyond the English-speaking world and finding usage in many other languages, carrying the same symbolic meaning.

The phrase’s usage has also expanded over time. Originally referring to individuals, the idiom now applies to ideas, locations, and situations with significant potential under their unassuming or unrefined surface.

The phrase “diamond in the rough” is an excellent example of how language evolves. What started as a metaphor in a 17th-century play has become a widely accepted idiom used worldwide. The backstory of this phrase serves as a testament to its staying power and the universal appeal of its meaning. The next time you use this phrase, remember its history, the evolution it has undergone, and the insightful metaphor it presents.

See also: rough diamond

Share your opinions1 Opinion

Was interested to know exactly what is meant by the term because the word is used so loosely and sometimes incorrectly !

‒ Linda Farrow December 13, 2023

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