rag·​tag | \ˈrag-ˌtag \

Definition of ragtag 

2 : motley sense 2 a ragtag bunch of misfits

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Breaking Down Ragtag

Tag and rag was a relatively common expression in the 16th and 17th centuries, and it was often used pejoratively to refer to members of the lower classes of society. By the 18th century, the phrase had been expanded to "rag, tag and bobtail." That expression could mean either "the lower classes" or "the entire lot of something" (as opposed to just the more desirable parts - the entire unit of an army, for example, not just its more capable soldiers). Something described as "ragtag and bobtail," then, was usually common and unspectacular. "Ragtag and bobtail" was eventually shortened to "ragtag," the adjective we know today, which can describe an odd mixture that is often hastily assembled or second-rate.

Examples of ragtag in a Sentence

a ragtag group of musicians the team was a ragtag bunch who had only one thing in common: a lack of skill

Recent Examples on the Web

The ragtag group of players, which Mumme said included an unusual number of Polynesians and others whom every other coach at every level of college football had ignored, became the turnaround story of the NAIA. Andrew Beaton, WSJ, "The Tiny Iowa College That Changed the NFL," 23 Oct. 2018 The next morning a wrangler met and rounded up our ragtag group in the parking lot of the Rodeway Inn and then drove us up to Monument Valley. Guy Trebay, Condé Nast Traveler, "In the Heart of Navajo Lands," 19 Oct. 2018 Across the room, the merry band of children was getting ready for their big debut: as ragtag percussionists accompanying the runway show. Laura Regensdorf, Vogue, "These Marbleized Lips at Eckhaus Latta Are About to Become an Art-Punk Beauty Obsession," 8 Sep. 2018 On June 22, 1911, a ragtag army of leftist Mexican insurgents and American adventurers led by Gen. Jack Mosby, surrendered to Mexican federal forces, ending the occupation of Tijuana that began May 9. sandiegouniontribune.com, "June 22, 1911: The Second Battle of Tijuana," 22 June 2018 The hip-hop musical revolves around a ragtag group of friends fighting back against the evil Mr. Guy Jantic, who wants to turn their neighborhood into a parking lot. Linda Mcintosh, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Vista Boys & Girls Club gala raises $85K ...community news," 11 July 2018 Most local departments were ragtag groups, pulled together in makeshift mixtures of structure firefighters and community volunteers. Alden Woods, azcentral, "Granite Mountain Hotshots: Five years on, Dustin DeFord's family finds peace in faith," 29 June 2018 Jackson, a North Miami High alumnus, and the other players who helped fill a ragtag team early in the 1987 season went unrecognized. Jordan Mcpherson, miamiherald, "It took 31 years, but this North Miami High alum finally received his Super Bowl ring," 15 June 2018 Rogers, who populated his show with adorably ragtag puppets, used one of them, Daniel Tiger, to explain what had happened. Taylor Antrim, Vogue, "Won’t You Be My Neighbor?," 14 June 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ragtag.' 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 ragtag

1865, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ragtag

ragtag and bobtail

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Statistics for ragtag

Last Updated

19 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ragtag

The first known use of ragtag was in 1865

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More Definitions for ragtag



English Language Learners Definition of ragtag

: made up of different people or things and not organized or put together well


rag·​tag | \ˈrag-ˌtag \

Kids Definition of ragtag

: not well organized or put together The ragtag team somehow won the game.

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