Diamond In The Rough

What does it mean when someone tells you "You're a diamond in the rough"?

Expert Answers
Noelle Thompson eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You know what this phrase always makes me think of?  Disney's Aladdin.  I know, ... it's kind of sad that my mind goes there.  But in reality, the character of Aladdin (at least the euphemism presented by Disney) is a perfect example of that "diamond in the rough."  I don't have much to add to the descriptions above, but I wish to provide a tiny explanation.  Aladdin is definitely a "rough" character.  He grew up poor and homeless.  He grew up stealing in order to eat and survive.  The irony is that, despite all of this, he has astounding moral character.  In regards to examples, Aladdin admits, "I steal only what I can't afford."  He also gives over his entire (stolen) loaf of bread to a pair of sniffling urchins.  Not to mention, he makes sure his little selfish monkey gets enough, too.  Of course, he also saves Jasmine from death in the humorous episode where Aladdin pretends Jasmine is his nutty sister in order to save her from the loss of her hands (from "stealing" an apple).  [I'm going to forigive him his gawking at Jasmine, ... the boy just can't help himself.]  Jasmine realizes this strong moral character as Aladdin listens and empathizes with her situation.  Therefore, with a little spit and polish (and dare I say royal money?) Aladdin turns out to be that true diamond while not losing his endearing "rough" quality.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The old cliche "a diamond in the rough" connotes that a person has much hidden talent and potential that has not yet been tapped by the person him/herself or that has not been recognized by others just as a diamond is unrecognizable for its value when it is in its raw stage.  Saying this to a person is, however, somewhat less than complimentary as it implies that the person has not utilized his/her gifts, because of not having exerted the necessary efforts to reach one's potential. 

On the other hand, the speaker who says that a person is a diamond in the rough is attempting to be positive by encouraging a person to recognize his/her potential; the speaker implies that it behooves the person to take action and develop the great potential he/she possesses.  Sometimes, too, people remark that someone is the rough diamond because the person has been in a disadvantaged environment which has not provided any opportunities for him/her, and someone should recognize this person and assist his/her development.


Lorraine Caplan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a great metaphor, but it requires some understanding of the nature of a diamond.  Diamonds, in their natural state, are rough, not only unpolished, but also not even appearing to most people to be diamonds at all.  Their beauty is unrevealed to the viewer, awaiting a polishing by the person who is able to see what lies beneath.  So, a diamond in the rough is a person with many great qualities, but one who is not polished enough for others to always appreciate.  Sometimes this expression is used to describe an intelligent person whose grammar skills are lacking or a beautiful person who is not well-dressed or well-groomed.  I have included a link that shows a photo of a diamond in the rough.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A diamond in the rough is someone who has not been polished yet, but has potential.  The rough implies that the person is rough on the outside, but inside there is more to the person.  Usually the person just needs a little training and education in order to really shine.

maria-vivanco | Student

The saying means that you have some hidden potential that should be shown or is to be shown. It means you have potential but need time to achieve it or help to achieve it. 

krcavnar | Student

The phrase “diamond in the rough” is an analogy to a diamond.  When a diamond is extracted from the mines it looks like a glassy rock.  It is only when it goes through the process of being cleaned, cut and polished does it acquire sparkle and brilliance and is considered of high value.  When this analogy is applied to a person it means that the person has great potential but is rough and unpolished, but with hard work the true potential of the individual can be discovered.  The phrase “diamond in the rough” may also refer to someone who is genuine and valuable inside but has a rough exterior.  

patbelcher | Student

The expression  " You're a diamond in the rough" means that a person has some hidden, undiscovered talent, characterisitic or quality that is not immediately clear to others due to one's rough, undeveloped exterior. The person has a lot of untapped potential or qualities that are untapped, but needs to be nurutred and refined in order for these qualities and traits to really reflect the tue person.

vnessawong21 | Student

This is a great metaphor and saying. Diamonds in their natural uncut state are rough and not very beautiful. However, with a little bit of polishing and work diamonds can become the expensive jewels they are known to be. This metaphor is comparing you to a diamond. It is essentially saying you have the potential to become a true gem - a wonderful person, all you need is a little work. 

taangerine | Student

When someone tells you " You're a diamond in the rough," it means that you are a hidden gem. A gem that has great talent and potential, but is very hidden. But, once you have found the gem, it is very valuable and put to good use. 

atyourservice | Student

It means you have a hidden beauty/potential.

crystaltu001 | Student

"You're a diamond in the rough," means that you are someone with hidden and unique qualities that are not visible to the eye at first glance. It's like you have potential in something but you have to work for it to make it show, which takes time so that's why the quote is, " . . . a diamond in the rough."