muck·​rake ˈmək-ˌrāk How to pronounce muckrake (audio)
muckraked; muckraking; muckrakes

intransitive verb

: to search out and publicly expose real or apparent misconduct of a prominent individual or business
muckraker noun

Did you know?

Muckrake and John Bunyan

The noun muckrake (literally, a rake for muck, i.e., manure) rose out of the dung heap and into the realm of literary metaphor in 1684. That's when John Bunyan used it in Pilgrim's Progress to represent man's preoccupation with earthly things. "The Man with the Muckrake," he wrote, "could look no way but downward." In a 1906 speech, President Teddy Roosevelt recalled Bunyan's words while railing against journalists he thought focused too much on exposing corruption in business and government. Roosevelt called them "the men with the muck-rakes" and implied that they needed to learn "when to stop raking the muck, and to look upward." Investigative reporters weren't insulted; they adopted the term muckraker as a badge of honor. And soon English speakers were using the verb muckrake for the practice of exposing misconduct.

Examples of muckrake in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Her story is tucked into the files of the ACLU of Southern California, which opened in 1923 after muckraking writer Upton Sinclair was jailed for reading the 1st Amendment while supporting protesting San Pedro dockworkers. Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times, 22 June 2023 Even his longtime crush, muckraking crime reporter Iris West (Kiersey Clemons), is sympathetic to his plight. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 6 June 2023 The biggest scandal of all exploded in 2015 when opposition politicians and muckraking journalists questioned what had happened to billions of dollars that had disappeared from 1Malaysia Development Berhad, the country’s state investment fund. New York Times, 15 May 2018 Mr Wolff’s muckraking skills, cattiness, cynicism and feel for human weakness, especially among the rich and famous, make him well-qualified for the job. The Economist, 11 Jan. 2018 Years later, muckraking journalist Jack Anderson claimed that those three squirrels hadn’t been trapped. John Kelly, Washington Post, 14 Apr. 2018 It was also awarded three Pulitzer Prizes for investigative features on politics and corruption in the city, and was home to muckraking news reporters like Wayne Barrett and Tom Robbins. Lukas I. Alpert, WSJ, 22 Aug. 2017 In Vladimir Putin’s Russia, independent media have been taken over by Kremlin-friendly figures and muckraking reporters have faced dismissals and even death. Washington Post, 10 Aug. 2017

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'muckrake.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


obsolete muckrake, noun, rake for dung

First Known Use

1879, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of muckrake was in 1879


Dictionary Entries Near muckrake

Cite this Entry

“Muckrake.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 24 Jul. 2024.

More from Merriam-Webster on muckrake

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!