rag·​tag | \ ˈrag-ˌtag How to pronounce ragtag (audio) \

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

Their progress is tracked by a ragtag assortment of men: a documentary film crew, an evil tabloid newspaper editor and some cynical movie writers from Hollywood. New York Times, "‘Spice World’ & Me," 23 Aug. 2019 The main Pride march, the dissidents say, has strayed too far from its roots as a ragtag liberation demonstration celebrating an act of resistance. Washington Post, "Pride or protest? Disillusioned plan their own LGBTQ march," 26 June 2019 But that pact papers over numerous divisions among the ragtag group of moderate Conservatives and opposition lawmakers intent on stopping a no-deal Brexit. Rob Picheta, CNN, "Boris Johnson had a torrid week. Now he's fighting to take back control," 8 Sep. 2019 The special relationship between the two countries goes back two centuries, leaders here often recount, when Simon Bolivar led a ragtag army from Venezuela to liberate Bogota from Spanish rule. Washington Post, "Colombia grants citizenship to 24,000 babies born to Venezuelan mothers," 5 Aug. 2019 During the height of the Cold War, a ragtag bunch of college hockey players took on the best players from the former Soviet Union — the four-time defending Olympic champions — and somehow emerged victorious in Lake Placid. Steve Gardner, USA TODAY, "July 4: A look back at some of the most patriotic moments in American sports," 4 July 2019 The show features a ragtag group of, well, single parents looking out for one another and their kids. Rachel Yang, Teen Vogue, "Unintelligent Asians Are Smart for Television," 8 Aug. 2019 Her teammate, Edana Lynch, nodded — here, everyone fits seamlessly into an intentionally ragtag game. Nicole Blackwood, chicagotribune.com, "‘We’re like the forgotten people’: Chicago Riots junior roller derby offers rough-and-tumble community of acceptance," 18 July 2019 Rounding out the ragtag bunch of kids are Bart as Finn Wolfhard’s Mike, Nelson as Gaten Matarazzo’s Dustin and Martin as Caleb McLaughlin’s Lucas. Christi Carras, Los Angeles Times, "‘The Simpsons’ will scare up a ‘Stranger Things’ parody for Episode 666," 15 July 2019

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

8 Oct 2019

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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

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


rag·​tag | \ ˈrag-ˌtag How to pronounce ragtag (audio) \

Kids Definition of ragtag

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

More from Merriam-Webster on ragtag

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ragtag

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ragtag

Nglish: Translation of ragtag for Spanish Speakers

Comments on ragtag

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involving a confidence or trust

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