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

Keep scrolling for more

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 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 And there was a glimmer of hope at the end because the legacy of this rancid human being, Selina Meyer, was diminished. Los Angeles Times, "For Julia Louis-Dreyfus, returning to ‘Veep’ after cancer was salvation," 14 Aug. 2019 Throughout the state, sheriffs concocted schemes to feed their prisoners as little as possible and found creative ways to stock their jail pantries with other folks’ rancid leftovers. al.com, "How many Alabama sheriffs are crooked? DOJ needs to give us an answer," 26 June 2019 Milan, Italy One popular myth about European fascism is that its roots were planted in the rancid soil of Versailles — the Treaty of Versailles, that is, signed a century ago, on June 28, 1919, which officially ended the First World War. Joseph Loconte, National Review, "Mussolini and the End of Liberal Democracy," 25 June 2019 States have tried burying them on beaches, dumping them in landfills, sinking them at sea, and on one notable occasion that was caught on camera, blowing them up with dynamite, which sent rancid chunks of whale raining down on spectators. New York Times, "A Beached Whale Needs Somewhere to Rot. How About Your Place?," 17 June 2019 The reverent gentlemen of the cloister, gourmets to a fault, extolled his creations as good deeds shining in the usually rancid world of pastry cookery. Bruce Dale, National Geographic, "Adored, neglected, and restored: A 1968 Nat Geo feature explored Notre Dame," 17 Apr. 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about rancid

Listen to Our Podcast about rancid

Statistics for rancid

Last Updated

29 Sep 2019

Time Traveler for rancid

The first known use of rancid was in 1627

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on rancid

What made you want to look up rancid? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


the exactly right word or phrasing

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Pass the Little Ribbons: A Pasta Word Quiz

  • rotelle pasta
  • Match the pasta to its meaning in English: Rotelle
Spell It

Can you spell these 10 commonly misspelled words?

Dictionary Devil

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!