ran·​cid | \ ˈran(t)-səd How to pronounce rancid (audio) \

Definition of rancid

1 : having an unpleasant smell or taste usually from chemical change or decomposition rancid butter rancid breath
2 : distinctly unpleasant or distasteful : offensive a rancid sexual scandal Without free speech, even in its most rancid forms, we may have nothing to choose at night but old movies and "Heeeeeeeere's Johnny!"— Richard Corliss

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Other Words from rancid

rancidity \ ran-​ˈsi-​də-​tē How to pronounce rancidity (audio) \ noun
rancidness \ ˈran(t)-​səd-​nəs How to pronounce rancidness (audio) \ noun

Did You Know?

Rancid has a fairly straightforward history; it derives from Latin rancidus, itself from the Latin verb rancēre, meaning "to be rancid" or "to stink." In addition to the related words rancidness and rancidity, another descendant of rancēre in English is rancor, meaning "bitter deep-seated ill will." (Rancor passed through Middle French rather than being borrowed into English directly.) These days, rancid also has developed a second, extended sense which is used in the context of offenses to less literal or physical senses than those of smell or taste, and you might see references to "rancid behavior" or "a rancid personality."

Examples of rancid in a Sentence

Some foods become rancid quickly. an unscrupulous food vendor who's as rancid as the meat that he serves
Recent Examples on the Web Hold that rancid iteration of Cow Hollow up against the current one — polished, chic, a whiff of elitism in the air — and the waves of change that have reshaped San Francisco over and over come crashing to your feet. Nick Eilerson, SFChronicle.com, "Shake Shack signals change in San Francisco," 22 Jan. 2020 That only looks like a model of bipartisanship when set against the rancid politics of 2019. Gilbert Garcia, ExpressNews.com, "Debunking the myth of Watergate impeachment bipartisanship," 22 Nov. 2019 Phoenix’s rancid torment jangles the nerves and turns the stomach. Kyle Smith, National Review, "Joker: The Most Unsettling of All Comic-Book Movies," 3 Oct. 2019 The kingdom of Ndongo was an early-modern African state located in present-day Angola, and, at the time of Njinga’s birth, a rancid combination of white people, colonialism, and the Atlantic slave trade were tearing it apart. Anne Thériault, Longreads, "Queens of Infamy: Njinga," 4 Oct. 2019 Eventually the sediment is removed preventing the oil from going bad and having a rancid taste. David Taylor, Houston Chronicle, "Devers orchard saves harvest just before olive crop goes underwater — again," 23 Sep. 2019 The effects of plastic The Ministry of Health’s Tibi has no doubt that the work of people like Wissam Adel, 15—who spends his days picking through piles of trash at a rancid-smelling landfill—is hurting his long-term health. Heidi Levine, National Geographic, "Plastics in the Gaza Strip are both a curse and a blessing," 7 Aug. 2019 Whole grain flour, on the other hand, is comprised of the whole kit and caboodle, which means that these flours are much more perishable, and will go rancid after one to three months at room temperature. Jesse Sparks, Bon Appétit, "9 Pantry Staples You Probably Need to Replace," 3 Sep. 2019 Our rancid political culture is, quite literally, killing our nation. E.j. Dionne Jr., The Mercury News, "Dionne: On guns and white nationalism, one side is right and one is wrong," 6 Aug. 2019

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

1627, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for rancid

Latin rancidus, from rancēre to be rancid

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Time Traveler for rancid

Time Traveler

The first known use of rancid was in 1627

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Statistics for rancid

Last Updated

3 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Rancid.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rancid. Accessed 17 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for rancid


How to pronounce rancid (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of rancid

of food : having a strong and unpleasant smell or taste from no longer being fresh
chiefly US : full of anger and bitterness


ran·​cid | \ ˈran-səd How to pronounce rancid (audio) \

Kids Definition of rancid

: having a strong disagreeable smell or taste from no longer being fresh rancid butter


ran·​cid | \ ˈran(t)-səd How to pronounce rancid (audio) \

Medical Definition of rancid

: having a rank smell or taste usually from chemical change or decomposition rancid butter

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More from Merriam-Webster on rancid

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for rancid

Spanish Central: Translation of rancid

Nglish: Translation of rancid for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of rancid for Arabic Speakers

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