\ˈraŋk \

Definition of rank 

(Entry 1 of 3)

1a : relative standing or position

b : a degree or position of dignity, eminence, or excellence : distinction soon took rank as a leading attorney— J. D. Hicks

c : high social position the privileges of rank

d : a grade of official standing in a hierarchy

2 : an aggregate of individuals classed together usually used in plural

3a : row, series

b : a row of people

c(1) : a line of soldiers ranged side by side in close order

(2) ranks plural : armed forces

(3) ranks plural : the body of enlisted personnel

d : any of the rows of squares that extend across a chessboard perpendicular to the files

e British : stand sense 6

4 : an orderly arrangement : formation

5 : the order according to some statistical characteristic (such as the score on a test)

6 : any of a series of classes of coal based on increasing alteration of the parent vegetable matter, increasing carbon content, and increasing fuel value

7 : the number of linearly independent rows or columns in a matrix


ranked; ranking; ranks

Definition of rank (Entry 2 of 3)

transitive verb

1 : to determine the relative position of : rate a highly ranked prospect

2 : to arrange in lines or in a regular formation

3 : to take precedence of

intransitive verb

1 : to take or have a position in relation to others ranks first in her class

2 : to form or move in ranks



Definition of rank (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : offensive in odor or flavor especially : rancid

2a : shockingly conspicuous must lecture him on his rank disloyalty— David Walden

b : outright used as an intensive rank beginners

3 : luxuriantly or excessively vigorous in growth

4 : offensively gross or coarse : foul

6 : high in amount or degree : fraught

7 archaic : lustful, ruttish

8 obsolete : grown too large

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Other Words from rank


rankly adverb
rankness noun

Choose the Right Synonym for rank


malodorous, stinking, fetid, noisome, putrid, rank, fusty, musty mean bad-smelling. malodorous may range from the unpleasant to the strongly offensive. malodorous fertilizers stinking and fetid suggest the foul or disgusting. prisoners were held in stinking cells the fetid odor of skunk cabbage noisome adds a suggestion of being harmful or unwholesome as well as offensive. a stagnant, noisome sewer putrid implies particularly the sickening odor of decaying organic matter. the putrid smell of rotting fish rank suggests a strong unpleasant smell. rank cigar smoke fusty and musty suggest lack of fresh air and sunlight, fusty also implying prolonged uncleanliness, musty stressing the effects of dampness, mildew, or age. a fusty attic the musty odor of a damp cellar

flagrant, glaring, gross, rank mean conspicuously bad or objectionable. flagrant applies usually to offenses or errors so bad that they can neither escape notice nor be condoned. flagrant abuse of the office of president glaring implies painful or damaging obtrusiveness of something that is conspicuously wrong, faulty, or improper. glaring errors gross implies the exceeding of reasonable or excusable limits. gross carelessness rank applies to what is openly and extremely objectionable and utterly condemned. rank heresy

Examples of rank in a Sentence


people of high rank and profession She's not concerned about rank or wealth. officers with the rank of captain He rose to the rank of partner in the law firm. He longed to join the upper social ranks. military ranks such as private, corporal, and sergeant He moved up through the ranks to become vice president of the company. The organization's ranks have doubled in the past two years. The flu swept through the ranks, infecting almost every soldier. Several men were selected from the ranks.


A magazine recently ranked the school as one of the best in the country. The city currently ranks as the world's largest. Students who rank in the top third of their class have a better chance of being accepted to the college of their choice.


You can't expect a rank beginner like her to know all the rules of the game. covered with trumpet vines so rank you couldn't see the trellis beneath them
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

Other tech giants are also looking to increase diversity within their ranks. James Rogers, Fox News, "Facebook making slow progress on diversity, report says," 13 July 2018 But none of this matters unless firms correct the obscene gender imbalances in their upper ranks. BostonGlobe.com, "Women in law paint picture of harassment," 12 July 2018 Barcelona have strengthened their defensive ranks ahead of 2018/19 by confirming the signing of French centre-back Clement Lenglet from Sevilla after triggering his €35.9m buyout clause. SI.com, "Barcelona Confirm €35.9m Signing of Talented Sevilla Centre-Back Clement Lenglet," 12 July 2018 Conservatives’ third principle is to rely on the judgment of a governing class that adopts talented people into its ranks. The Economist, "The Conservative Party has trashed the basic principles of conservatism," 12 July 2018 More and more female artists asked to join their ranks. Ryan Kost, SFChronicle.com, "‘Mujeres Muralistas’ discuss their move into mural making," 12 July 2018 Who knows how much expertise is concealed within their ranks? Rena Gross, Billboard, "'The Handmaid's Tale': Season 2, Episode 13 Recap: 19 Startling Moments in 'The Word'," 11 July 2018 Later on, some of the women suspect there's an undercover cop in their ranks, and many of them succumb to paranoia. Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader, "Lesbian revolutionaries smash sexual taboos to undermine the patriarchy in Bruce LaBruce's The Misandrists," 6 July 2018 When the Northeast Conference expanded in 1998, then-Division II Quinnipiac joined its ranks — later moving up to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. Alison Kuznitz, courant.com, "A Visionary Leader, President John Lahey Casts His Final Shadow On Quinnipiac University," 2 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The transactions, some of which were disclosed in June, sparked criticism because Mr. Ross, as a high-ranking government official, could have access to inside information that would inform his trades. Dave Michaels, WSJ, "Wilbur Ross Sale to Cover Holdings Worth Potentially Tens of Millions," 13 July 2018 In June, the village hired as its top cop Luis Cabrera, a former high-ranking Miami police officer. Charles Rabin, Jay Weaver And David Ovalle, miamiherald, "The chief wanted perfect stats, so cops were told to pin crimes on blacks, probe found," 12 July 2018 Stephen Legomsky, a professor emeritus at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis, said the judge could threaten to jail lower-ranking officials who carried out the family separations or struggled to reunite the families. Alan Gomez, USA TODAY, "How a judge can punish Trump administration over separated families," 11 July 2018 Aderholt had been a high-ranking figure in Southern Baptist circles. Deanna Boyd And Sarah Smith, star-telegram, "He quit in June. Now Southern Baptist leader is charged in teen's 1997 sexual assault," 9 July 2018 One day, a high-ranking official at the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, impressed by the hardworking teen, hired Carnegie to be his personal secretary. Jonathan Schifman, Popular Mechanics, "The Entire History of Steel," 9 July 2018 The book follows a Canadian businessman named Barry Simcoe, who has survived by sweet-talking high-ranking Venezuelan military officials and robots. Shannon Liao, The Verge, "In The Robots of Gotham, AI has taken over the world — and become exactly like us," 7 July 2018 The file includes letters from high-ranking university officials congratulating the doctor for various appointments and tenure. CBS News, "Ohio State doctor who killed himself accused of decades-long sexual misconduct," 6 July 2018 Winston said he was honored that such a high-ranking official would come to a swearing-in event. Talia Richman, baltimoresun.com, "U.S. Army Secretary swears in new recruits, talks strategy at Fort Meade," 6 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective

The department did not rank intersections by crashes for 2014 and 2015. Jennifer Johnson, chicagotribune.com, "Dempster-Potter had highest number of reported crashes last year: Park Ridge police," 19 June 2018 And while Latvian elections don’t exactly rank high on the list of an American president’s priorities, the White House could have guessed what the Russians were gearing up to do — and should have sent them a forceful message to knock it off. Ian Bremmer, Time, "Yes, Obama Mishandled Russia's Election Hacking. But So Has Trump," 22 Feb. 2018 Key to that turnaround has been the Horns' ability to get opposing offenses off the field — their rank sixth nationally in third-down conversion defense. Nick Moyle, Houston Chronicle, "College football preview: Oklahoma State at Texas," 20 Oct. 2017 Any attempt to model tax liability in the new system will be rank speculation. David L. Bahnsen, National Review, "A Fairer Tax Code Is a More Efficient Tax Code," 17 Oct. 2017 The design style did not rank number one in any state. Jenna Milliner-waddell, ELLE Decor, "The Most-Searched Design Style In The United States Is So Unexpected," 10 Aug. 2017 The nexus inspires the most rank forms of situational ethics and rationalizations. The Hive, "Obama Cashes In—And the Media Piles On," 28 Apr. 2017

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


14th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3a


1573, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 2


13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 3

History and Etymology for rank


Middle English, from Anglo-French renc, reng, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German hring ring — more at ring


Middle English, from Old English ranc overbearing, strong; akin to Old Norse rakkr erect and perhaps to Old English riht right — more at right

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Statistics for rank

Last Updated

12 Oct 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for rank

The first known use of rank was in the 13th century

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More Definitions for rank



English Language Learners Definition of rank

 (Entry 1 of 3)

: having a strong, unpleasant smell

: very bad and obvious

: complete or total



English Language Learners Definition of rank (Entry 2 of 3)

: a position in a society, organization, group, etc.

: a high position in a society, organization, group, etc.

ranks : the people or things that belong to a particular organization or group



English Language Learners Definition of rank (Entry 3 of 3)

: to place (someone or something) in a particular position among a group of people or things that are being judged according to quality, ability, size, etc.

: to have a particular position in a group of people or things that are being judged according to quality, ability, size, etc.

: to arrange (people or things) in a line or row


\ˈraŋk \

Kids Definition of rank

 (Entry 1 of 3)

1 : row entry 2 sense 1, series ranks of houses

2 : a line of soldiers standing side by side

3 ranks plural : the body of enlisted persons in an army

4 : position within a group Who is highest in rank in this office?

5 : high social position

6 : official grade or position the rank of major



Kids Definition of rank (Entry 2 of 3)

1 : strong and active in growth rank weeds

2 : outright entry 2 sense 1 rank dishonesty

3 : having an unpleasant smell The room was rank with smoke.


ranked; ranking

Kids Definition of rank (Entry 3 of 3)

1 : to take or have a certain position in a group He ranks near the top of the class.

2 : to arrange in a classification

3 : to arrange in lines or in a formation

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