a rough diamond
or a diamond in the rough
- a person of exceptional character
- a person with great potential but lacking polish and refinement
- a person who does not seem very polite or well educated at first, although they have a good character
- a person who has good qualities despite a rough exterior
- someone or something whose good qualities are hidden
- a person who is kinder and more amusing than they seem to be from their appearance and behavior
- Bob is intelligent and trustworthy but lacks sophistication. He is a rough diamond.
- Mitchell may have been a rough diamond, but he was absolutely loyal to his employer.
- Rickey looks a little messy, but he’s a diamond in the rough.
- She’s a diamond in the rough – a little hard to take at times, but exquisite and cooperative.
- This show is one of those diamonds in the rough, an incredible gem that almost no one has noticed.
- Her singing voice is beautiful, but she needs help with her gestures; she’s a rough diamond.
- Jack is intelligent and loyal but lacks manners – he’s a rough diamond.
This idiomatic expression is obviously a metaphor for the original unpolished state of diamond gemstones. It comes from the fact that when diamonds are newly mined – that is, before they have been cut and polished – they don’t shine. In fact, they look quite a lot like pebbles and are easily overlooked in their “rough” state.
From this comes the idea that a person can also be like a diamond in the rough or, in the more common idiom, “a rough diamond.” This means a person with rough, uncultivated, or even impolite manners, but at heart is a very good person with excellent qualities. It is more commonly expressed in the form ‘rough diamond’.
The first recorded use in print is in John Fletcher’s, A Wife for a Month (1624):
“She is very honest, and will be as hard to cut as a rough diamond.”