rab·​ble | \ ˈra-bəl How to pronounce rabble (audio) \

Definition of rabble

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a disorganized or confused collection of things
2a : a disorganized or disorderly crowd of people : mob
b : the lowest class of people


rabbled; rabbling\ ˈra-​b(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce rabbling (audio) \

Definition of rabble (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to insult or assault by or as a mob

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Did You Know?


Rabble has been with the English language since its appearance in Middle English (as "rabel") in the late 1300s. It may have come from the Middle English verb "rabel" which meant "to babble." (Despite the similarity in sound and meaning, however, "babble" and "rabble" are unrelated.) The verb "rabel" is related to Middle Dutch "rabbelen" and Low German rabbeln, meaning "to chatter." So how do we get from babbling to crowds of people? The connection may be the idea of confusion. "Rabble," in its earliest uses could not only indicate a pack of animals, swarm of insects, or a confused collection of things, but could also indicate a confused or meaningless string of words.

Examples of rabble in a Sentence

Noun the crown prince was reminded that even the rabble of the realm deserved his attention and compassion
Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The Labour party was, at that point, a disorganized rabble. Madeleine Kearns, National Review, "Boris Johnson’s Extraordinary Manifesto," 26 Nov. 2019 Áñez and the opposition counter that Morales’ ouster was the proper outcome for an election stolen by a corrupt and power-hungry rabble-rouser. Rachelle Krygier, Washington Post, "In Bolivia, an interim leader is leaving her conservative mark," 18 Nov. 2019 On occasion, priests have led the crowds, giving them the appearance more of a giant church choir than an angry rabble. S.r. | Shanghai, The Economist, "Do you hear the people sing? Not in China," 14 June 2019 The rabble on the wrong side of the law was now the law. Lorraine Ali, latimes.com, "'The Mod Squad,' 'Adam-12' and how TV brought the counterculture into 1968's cop shows," 20 Apr. 2018 Since then, Lai's role as one of Hong Kong's most prominent rabble-rousers has threatened his fortune, subjected him to death threats and made him a symbol of the city's tensions with mainland China. Jenni Marsh, CNN, "Why pro-democracy troublemaker Jimmy Lai is the only Hong Kong multi-millionaire standing up to China," 27 Aug. 2019 With The Conservative Sensibility, George Will takes a stand amid the rabble. Matthew Continetti, National Review, "The Conservative Sensibility Is George Will’s Definitive Declaration," 20 June 2019 In these cases, the threat of mob violence, or the simple fact of a mob demand, is sufficient to get those with power to act as the mob wishes, to do the mob’s dirty work for it and thereby relieve the rabble of the exertion of a riot. Kevin D. Williamson, National Review, "Crowder Isn’t a Threat to Public Safety," 6 June 2019 William Ackman, once an omnipresent rabble-rouser, is barely visible these days. Cara Lombardo, WSJ, "After Suffering Bruising Losses, Ackman Pursues Quiet Recovery," 21 Mar. 2019

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'rabble.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of rabble


15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 2a


1644, in the meaning defined above

History and Etymology for rabble


Middle English rabel pack of animals

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Time Traveler for rabble

Time Traveler

The first known use of rabble was in the 15th century

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Statistics for rabble

Last Updated

5 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Rabble.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rabble. Accessed 28 January 2020.

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More Definitions for rabble


How to pronounce rabble (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of rabble

: a large group of loud people who could become violent
: ordinary or common people who do not have a lot of money, power, or social status


rab·​ble | \ ˈra-bəl How to pronounce rabble (audio) \

Kids Definition of rabble

1 : a crowd that is noisy and hard to control : mob
2 : a group of people looked down upon as ignorant and hard to handle

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More from Merriam-Webster on rabble

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for rabble

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with rabble

Spanish Central: Translation of rabble

Nglish: Translation of rabble for Spanish Speakers

Comments on rabble

What made you want to look up rabble? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


showing steady, earnest care and effort

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