ram·​shack·​le | \ ˈram-ˌsha-kəl How to pronounce ramshackle (audio) \

Definition of ramshackle

1 : appearing ready to collapse : rickety
2 : carelessly or loosely constructed a ramshackle plot

The Evolution of Ramshackle

Ramshackle has nothing to do with rams, nor the act of being rammed, nor shackles. The word is an alteration of ransackled, an obsolete form of the verb ransack, meaning "to search through or plunder." (Ransack comes from Old Norse words meaning "house" and "seek.") A home that has been ransacked has had its contents thrown into disarray, and that image may be what inspired people to start using ramshackle in the first half of the 19th century to describe something that is poorly constructed or in a state of near collapse. Ramshackle in modern use can also be figurative, as in "a ramshackle excuse for the error."

Examples of ramshackle in a Sentence

The movie's ramshackle plot is confusing and not believable.
Recent Examples on the Web The actors are arrayed on a set by Laura Jellinek that resembles a ramshackle community hall. Charles Mcnulty, Los Angeles Times, 16 Sep. 2022 Town officials have long complained that Leon Chen’s East Hartford Venture LLC has let an already ramshackle property decline further since buying it six years ago. Don Stacom, Hartford Courant, 26 Aug. 2022 The ramshackle facility was known for its bar, which featured a big screen, an HBO subscription and a lax policy toward the sale of beer to Marquette University freshmen. Patrick Sauer, Smithsonian Magazine, 25 Aug. 2022 Yet, the homeless population is still climbing; ramshackle encampments dot Los Angeles' streets and parks. Nick Watt, CNN, 24 Aug. 2022 Capturing their life within this room and the beautiful landscape surrounding their ramshackle home, the resulting piece is beautiful and funny thanks to Big and Little Edie’s iconic campy style, but also tragic. Hadley Mendelsohn, House Beautiful, 24 Aug. 2022 The job provided just enough to live on, so Adam found a bed in a ramshackle cabin on a wooded, 38-acre property owned by a carpenter named David Vincelette. Dan Koeppel, Outside Online, 5 Sep. 2019 For a drink after the visit to Pigeon Key, the Sunset Grille and Raw Bar is a great ramshackle local watering hole, with modest prices and million-dollar views. Tony Perrottet, WSJ, 15 Aug. 2022 Glock says ramshackle homeless encampments are bad for the housed, but also bad for the unhoused. Nick Watt, CNN, 9 Aug. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ramshackle.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of ramshackle

1830, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ramshackle

alteration of earlier ransackled, from past participle of obsolete ransackle, frequentative of ransack

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The first known use of ramshackle was in 1830

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Last Updated

24 Sep 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ramshackle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ramshackle. Accessed 27 Sep. 2022.

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More Definitions for ramshackle


ram·​shack·​le | \ ˈram-ˌsha-kəl How to pronounce ramshackle (audio) \

Kids Definition of ramshackle

: ready to fall down a ramshackle barn


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