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 rancid (audio) \ noun
rancidness \ ˈran(t)-​səd-​nəs How to pronounce rancid (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 Wiederstein, 36, had COVID-19 last summer, lost her sense of smell and got nearly all of it back before noticing that her favorite foods smelled rancid and sickly sweet. Anna Kuchment, Dallas News, "‘Like rotting fish’: COVID-19 leaves many survivors holding their noses," 7 May 2021 Like rancid chicken, conflict doesn’t improve when put aside for later. Anchorage Daily News, "How to resolve conflicts in a remote work environment," 20 Apr. 2021 This is a place of muscly monsters, rancid odors, and, it must be noted, quite a lot of ooze. Megan Garber, The Atlantic, "Hormone Monsters," 14 Apr. 2021 Sometimes, people interpret the tastes as salty, bitter or rancid. Erika Edwards, NBC News, "A mouthful of nickels? Some say they taste metal after a Covid-19 vaccination," 25 Mar. 2021 In the early days, railroad meals, such as there were, often consisted of rancid meat, cold beans and stale coffee. Helaine Fendelman And Joe Rosson, Star Tribune, "China dinner plate was likely sold as train ride souvenir," 23 Feb. 2021 Residents burned scented candles and incense to combat the rancid odor coming from the fish-meal plants, and tourists wore white masks. Ian Urbina, The New Yorker, "Fish Farming Is Feeding the Globe. What’s the Cost for Locals?," 1 Mar. 2021 There’s a slight rancid element, a bit like butter that’s been burning for too long. Felipe Schrieberg, Forbes, "Whisky Review: Skye’s Newest Distillery, New Israeli Single Malts, And More," 28 Feb. 2021 What was once a grassroots example of thrifty, recycled fashion has turned rancid. Jacob Gallagher, WSJ, "Ugly Christmas Sweaters: Holiday Fun or Commercialized Insanity?," 21 Dec. 2020

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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Statistics for rancid

Last Updated

14 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Rancid.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rancid. Accessed 18 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for rancid



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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