rag·​a·​muf·​fin ˈra-gə-ˌmə-fən How to pronounce ragamuffin (audio)
: a ragged often disreputable person
especially : a poorly clothed often dirty child

Did you know?

If you've guessed that rag or ragged is related to ragamuffin, you may be correct, but the origins of the word are somewhat murky. In Middle English, ragamuffin functioned both as a surname and generically to denote a ragged (and sometimes stupid) person, and in the Middle English alliterative poem Piers Plowman William Langland used the word to serve as the name of a demon. The muffin part of ragamuffin may have its origin in either of two Anglo-Norman words for a devil or scoundrel, but that too is uncertain. No matter its muddied history—the word has continued to develop in modern times. It can also refer to a type of music with rap lyrics and a reggae beat.

Examples of ragamuffin in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The Moser family — Lubo, his wife and three cheerfully ragamuffin little kids — are a troupe of travelling performers who earn their keep putting on shows in the local towns. Jessica Kiang, Variety, 7 Sep. 2023 The reunion between ragamuffin Georgie and boyish Jason also recalls Peter Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon from 50 years ago, a movie set during the Great Depression, an exercise in nostalgia. Armond White, National Review, 30 Aug. 2023 Then there is the rest of the ragamuffin roster that was picked to finish seventh in the Big 12, a conference so prestigious that its most noteworthy programs — Oklahoma and Texas — can’t wait to leave. Billy Witz Sasha Portis, New York Times, 31 Dec. 2022 Right or wrong, San Diego teams are looked at like the unkempt, ragamuffin. John Maffei, San Diego Union-Tribune, 8 Dec. 2022 The baby was plump, and came to be called Tumpy (for Humpty Dumpty), a moniker that persisted well after poverty had thinned her into a ragamuffin. Lauren Michele Jackson, The New Yorker, 8 Aug. 2022 At least as the wryly morose Shakespeare, a ragamuffin-ish Nolte makes this journey occasionally captivating and lively — if not, ultimately, one worth seeing through to the end. Nick Schager, Variety, 21 Dec. 2021 For the occasion, Wayne ditched his usual ragamuffin chic attire in favor of an understated gray turtleneck and dark, baggy sweater with red trim. Keith Spera, NOLA.com, 21 Jan. 2021 This world teems with joyous Lower East Side ragamuffins, outfitted by costume designer Carol Sorensen. Hugh Hunter, Philly.com, 14 May 2018 See More

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

Word History


Middle English Ragamuffyn, name for a ragged, oafish person

First Known Use

1581, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of ragamuffin was in 1581


Dictionary Entries Near ragamuffin

Cite this Entry

“Ragamuffin.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ragamuffin. Accessed 5 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


rag·​a·​muf·​fin ˈrag-ə-ˌməf-ən How to pronounce ragamuffin (audio)
: a poorly clothed often dirty child

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