ran·​kle | \ ˈraŋ-kəl How to pronounce rankle (audio) \
rankled; rankling\ ˈraŋ-​k(ə-​)liŋ How to pronounce rankling (audio) \

Definition of rankle

intransitive verb

1 : to cause anger, irritation, or deep bitterness
2 : to feel anger and irritation

transitive verb

: to cause irritation or bitterness in

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The Connection Between Rankle and Dragon

The history of today's word is something of a sore subject. When rankle was first used in English, it meant "to fester," and that meaning is linked to the word's Old French ancestor—the noun raoncle or draoncle, which meant "festering sore." Etymologists think this Old French word was derived from the Latin dracunculus, a diminutive form of draco, which means "serpent" and which is the source of the English word dragon. The transition from serpents to sores apparently occurred because people thought certain ulcers or tumors looked like small serpents.

Examples of rankle in a Sentence

The joke about her family rankled her. that kind of rude treatment from a young person makes me rankle
Recent Examples on the Web SoftBank’s decision last month to abandon the deal further rankled staff who had been counting on selling stock. Jef Feeley, Bloomberg.com, "WeWork’s Adam Neumann Sues SoftBank Over Canceled Stock Deal," 5 May 2020 Trump rankled governors Monday night, declaring that he alone was authorized to rollback social distancing policies and restart the country's dormant economy. Kevin Johnson, USA TODAY, "Trump says he'll speak to all 50 governors and will be 'authorizing' reopenings. States disagree on his role," 15 Apr. 2020 The 2008 bailout, with the politically motivated and, at best, capricious sorting of winners and losers, rankled, as did the ongoing collusion among the big banks, the Federal Reserve, and politicians of both parties. Nick Paumgarten, The New Yorker, "The Price of the Coronavirus Pandemic," 13 Apr. 2020 The scandal still rankles people in the Caracas slum of Petare. Fox News, "Venezuela's rich flout coronavirus warnings to party during pandemic, report says," 8 Apr. 2020 Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican of Kentucky and the majority leader, was drafting trial rules that would not guarantee a chance to do so, rankling conservatives but potentially sparing moderates a politically risky vote. Michael D. Shear, BostonGlobe.com, "Senate opens Trump impeachment trial as new Ukraine revelations emerge," 16 Jan. 2020 At all levels, concerns about ice hockey’s head injuries, scant diversity and costs are rankling parents and prospective players, and Canadians are now investing their time and money in other sports. Salim Valji, New York Times, "Amid Blackface and Abuse Allegations, Hockey Wonders Why Young Canadians Don’t Play," 17 Dec. 2019 The ad rankled former Obama aides, but none of them went so far as to send Mr. Sanders a cease and desist letter. New York Times, "Our 2020 Election Guide," 2 Apr. 2020 The side effect is, of course, argument: Throughout the West, everyone hates traffic, but everyone also loves cars, and virtually any effort to deal with the former is going to rankle the latter. Matt Gross, Sunset Magazine, "Will San Francisco’s Car Ban End Traffic in the West?," 29 Jan. 2020

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

1606, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

History and Etymology for rankle

Middle English ranclen to fester, from Anglo-French rancler, from Old French draoncler, raoncler, from draoncle, raoncle festering sore, from Medieval Latin dracunculus, from Latin, diminutive of draco serpent — more at dragon

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Time Traveler for rankle

Time Traveler

The first known use of rankle was in 1606

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Statistics for rankle

Last Updated

14 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Rankle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rankle. Accessed 29 May. 2020.

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More Definitions for rankle


How to pronounce rankle (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of rankle

: to cause (someone) to feel angry or irritated especially for a long time


ran·​kle | \ ˈraŋ-kəl How to pronounce rankle (audio) \
rankled; rankling

Kids Definition of rankle

: to cause anger, irritation, or bitterness

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More from Merriam-Webster on rankle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for rankle

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with rankle

Spanish Central: Translation of rankle

Nglish: Translation of rankle for Spanish Speakers

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