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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Synonyms for rankle


boil, burn, foam, fume, rage, seethe, sizzle, steam, storm

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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

Any one of those policies rankle gun-rights activists, who have argued such restrictions would not stop gun violence, or are violations of the Constitution. Joseph O’sullivan, The Seattle Times, "Judge blocks Washington ballot initiative to raise purchase age for semi-automatic rifles," 17 Aug. 2018 In April, Alaska announced other changes that rankled its loyalists, including charging extra for exit-row seats, changing its Premium Economy prices, and slapping on tighter change-fee rules. Katherine Lagrave, Condé Nast Traveler, "Alaska Airlines Is Dropping Its Popular Price Guarantee," 8 Aug. 2018 The offense bailed him by bashing seven home runs, but the performance still rankled Hill. Andy Mccullough, latimes.com, "Rockies stifle Dodgers' bats despite solid outing from pitcher Rich Hill in 3-1 loss," 30 June 2018 Sherrill’s $280,000 annual take (about $744,000 in today’s dollars) rankled the higher education establishment. Andy Staples, SI.com, "The Message Behind the Money: How Texas A&M Landed Jimbo Fisher," 28 June 2018 Fox News has reported previously that these paychecks have rankled Disney executives on the West Coast, who believe the pay is far in excess of what the personalities would command on the open market. Brian Flood, Fox News, "Disney selling ABC News’ longtime headquarters as trouble looms for embattled TV stars, journalists," 13 June 2018 What rankles, clearly, is that a serious norm has been violated with impunity. Kwame Anthony Appiah, New York Times, "How Can I Make My Colleague Stop Stealing?," 8 May 2018 That seat went to Justice Neil Gorsuch, Mr. Trump’s first high-court pick, who continued to rankle Democrats after taking the high bench. Jess Bravin, WSJ, "Brett Kavanaugh Confirmation Battle Tests Supreme Court’s Chief Justice," 7 Oct. 2018 In addition to rankling his critics in Congress, McCain’s indomitable attitude occasionally earned him enemies overseas. John Lehman, WSJ, "A Life of Service, Lived With Good-Natured Irreverence," 25 Aug. 2018

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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Statistics for rankle

Last Updated

20 Feb 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for rankle

The first known use of rankle was in 1606

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More Definitions for rankle



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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with rankle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for rankle

Spanish Central: Translation of rankle

Nglish: Translation of rankle for Spanish Speakers

Comments on rankle

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


a shady place in a garden or forest

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