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

intransitive verb

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

transitive verb

: to cause irritation or bitterness in

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The Connection Between Rankle and Dragon

When rankle was first used in English, it meant "to fester," and that meaning is related to French words referring to a sore and tracing to Latin dracunculus. The Latin is from draco, the word for a serpent and the source of English's dragon. The transition from serpents to sores is apparently from people associating the appearance of certain ulcers or tumors to 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 No issue facing Maryland has rankled Maddage more than the lack of affordable housing. Emily Guskin, Washington Post, 6 Apr. 2024 Separately, Business Insider recently rankled billionaire investor Bill Ackman after publishing an article alleging his wife, Neri Oxman, a former MIT professor, had committed plagiarism in her 2010 dissertation. Todd Spangler, Variety, 25 Jan. 2024 The revision rankled some corners of rural America. Zachary Schermele, USA TODAY, 5 Mar. 2024 Gantz’s three-day trip to the US capital has rankled some of Netanyahu’s allies. Helen Regan, CNN, 4 Mar. 2024 His influence in shaping an aggressive legal and public relations defense for the president’s son against criminal indictments and Republican attacks has rankled President Biden’s advisers inside and outside the White House. Michael S. Schmidt, New York Times, 16 Feb. 2024 The United States’ seemingly unconditional support for Israel, with which Indonesia will establish formal diplomatic relations only when an independent Palestinian state is established, has rankled elites in Jakarta. Dewi Fortuna Anwar, Foreign Affairs, 12 Feb. 2024 Wall Street's sudden exuberance for hallucinogens has rankled longtime advocates and philanthropists, who dreamed of making low-cost psychedelics widely available for mental health and personal growth. Matthew Perrone, Quartz, 5 Feb. 2024 Yet on some points, Mr. Netanyahu’s blueprint seems certain to rankle, if not anger, Israel’s neighbors and allies. Thomas Fuller, New York Times, 23 Feb. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'rankle.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


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

First Known Use

1606, in the meaning defined at intransitive sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of rankle was in 1606


Dictionary Entries Near rankle

Cite this Entry

“Rankle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rankle. Accessed 14 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


ran·​kle ˈraŋ-kəl How to pronounce rankle (audio)
rankled; rankling -k(ə-)liŋ How to pronounce rankle (audio)
: to cause anger, irritation, or deep bitterness

Middle English ranclen "to fester," from early French rancler (same meaning), derived from earlier draoncle, raoncle "a festering sore," from Latin dracunculus "little serpent, little dragon," from earlier draco "serpent, dragon," from Greek drākon "serpent, dragon" — related to dragon

Word Origin
The Greek word drakōn, meaning "serpent, dragon," was borrowed into Latin as draco. Later, the noun dracunculus, meaning "little serpent," was formed from draco. The French borrowed this noun as draoncle or raoncle but used it for "a festering sore or ulcer." It seems that the form of such a sore looked something like the form of a small serpent. From the noun the French formed the verb rancler, "to fester." In the 14th century, the verb was taken into English as rankle, with the same meaning. Our word dragon also comes from the Greek drakōn by way of the Latin draco.

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