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 Through the windows of the House chamber, Lofgren’s aides could see outside that a ragtag group of rioters had been able to climb atop the risers and the platforms. Anchorage Daily News, "How barricaded lawmakers and aides sounded urgent pleas for help as police lost control," 10 Jan. 2021 The ragtag crew of rebels don’t stand a chance; there are simply too many, and Grogu’s strength is seemingly at an all-time low. Alex Kane, USA TODAY, "'The Mandalorian' recap: ‘The Rescue’," 19 Dec. 2020 The Wilds follows the misadventures of a ragtag group of teenage girls who are forced into a survivalist lifestyle after a violent plane crash strands them on a secluded island in the middle of the ocean. Ineye Komonibo, refinery29.com, "Come On, Amazon — You Can’t Leave Us Hanging After Ending The Wilds Like That," 15 Dec. 2020 Jefferson continued to produce at a historic clip Sunday in an otherwise ragtag offensive performance in a 27-24 overtime win against the bumbling Jacksonville Jaguars. Star Tribune, "Here's a strategy: Just throw Justin Jefferson the ball," 6 Dec. 2020 But it’s a celebration most of all of city people, that fierce, resilient ragtag army of true believers. The Editors, Town & Country, "A Love Letter to New York," 23 Nov. 2020 Outside the parking-lot fence and next to a mini-mall, about thirty journalists and a ragtag group of citizens were gathered, shivering, huddled over smartphones, watching the results come in and not come in. Dave Eggers, The New Yorker, "Delaware Voters Await Joe Biden: “We Just Need Him”," 9 Nov. 2020 This new and suddenly potent force in American politics had started months earlier, as a handful of ragtag, small-scale protests against bank bailouts and the Recovery Act. Barack Obama, The New Yorker, "A President Looks Back on His Toughest Fight," 26 Oct. 2020 The town gathered for high-school football games and musicals and the annual Memorial Day parade, which featured the Hillsborough High School Marching Band and a never-ending, ragtag stream of children’s recreational sports teams. Nina Jankowicz, The Atlantic, "How an Anti-Shutdown Celebrity Is Made," 3 Oct. 2020

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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Time Traveler for ragtag

Time Traveler

The first known use of ragtag was in 1865

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Last Updated

17 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ragtag.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ragtag. Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.

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More Definitions for ragtag


How to pronounce ragtag (audio)

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

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ragtag

Nglish: Translation of ragtag for Spanish Speakers

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