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1. To mess up the smooth surface of something by making individual parts stand on end. A noun or pronoun can also be used between "ruffle" and "up." The cat really hates it if you ruffle up its fur by stroking it back to front. My uncle always ruffles my hair up when he sees me.
2. To cause one's hair or clothes to become disheveled or disordered through physical means. A noun or pronoun can be used between "ruffle" and "up." My brother always tries to ruffle me up just after I've finished getting my hair and clothes exactly the way I want them. The photographer ruffled up his model for the photoshoot.
3. To irritate, upset, or distress someone. A noun or pronoun can be used between "ruffle" and "up." I think your comments really ruffled up the boss. The news had ruffled me up, but I knew I had to keep doing my job.
4. To bully or harass someone using physical force. (A less common variant of "rough up.") A noun or pronoun can be used between "ruffle" and "up." Take some men and go ruffle the witness up a bit. Make sure he knows what'll happen if he testifies in court.
5. To cause some situation or arrangement to become disturbed, disordered, or ruined. A noun or pronoun can be used between "ruffle" and "up." The board of directors is eager not to ruffle up the business relationships they've built overseas. The new senator has made it clear that she intends to ruffle up the political status quo in Washington.
Farlex Dictionary of Idioms. © 2015 Farlex, Inc, all rights reserved.
ruffle something up
to raise something, such as feathers, up or outward. The bird ruffled its feathers up and started to preen. It ruffled up its feathers.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
To make some surface less smooth by partially lifting the individual parts that make up that surface: The wind ruffled up the bird's feathers. Don't ruffle my hair up.
The American Heritage® Dictionary of Phrasal Verbs. Copyright © 2005 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.