rag·​tag ˈrag-ˌtag How to pronounce ragtag (audio)
: 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 ragtag 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 Iran’s leadership transformed these early trainees from a ragtag band of fighters into Lebanon’s most powerful political and military force today, and Iran’s greatest foreign policy success, Hezbollah. Aaron Pilkington, The Conversation, 8 Oct. 2023 The Catholicism that was so key to the original film’s crisis of faith is pushed aside in favor of a ragtag multireligious crew that hammers home its message of belief in people being as important as belief in God. David Fear, Rolling Stone, 6 Oct. 2023 The director’s ragtag first feature was shot on a shoestring budget of just $10,000, with many of Barbari’s collaborators offering their services for free. Christopher Vourlias, Variety, 5 Nov. 2023 The Chelsea that was shot by him for all those years, with its ragtag and colorful cast of characters, is no longer, and his body of work has become a historical document. Naomi Fry, The New Yorker, 18 Oct. 2023 At one point, the ragtag pack of four homeless strays spies a U.S. Postal Service billboard. Chicago Tribune Staff, Chicago Tribune, 18 Aug. 2023 The Emmy winning sci-fi series stars Finn Wolfhard, Noah Schnapp, Caleb McLaughlin, Gaten Matarazzo, Sadie Sink and Millie Bobby Brown as a ragtag bunch of kids battling evil forces in their spooky small town during the 1980s. Emily Zemler, Los Angeles Times, 14 Oct. 2023 As the story goes, a group of fiercely loyal ragtag investors on Reddit managed to band together to put a squeeze on Wall Street traders who bet that the video game retailer GameStop would fail. Rebecca Rubin, Variety, 8 Sep. 2023 Spoiler: The treasure still hasn’t been found or even seen a quarter century into the franchise, but the storyline has grown to epic proportions anyway, encompassing a bizarre and detailed world in which Luffy’s ragtag crew of Straw Hat Pirates battle other crews and a corrupt World Government. Herb Scribner, Washington Post, 30 Aug. 2023 See More

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

Word History


ragtag and bobtail

First Known Use

1865, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of ragtag was in 1865


Dictionary Entries Near ragtag

Cite this Entry

“Ragtag.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ragtag. Accessed 10 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


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

More from Merriam-Webster on ragtag

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