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 Acting director of national intelligence Joseph Maguire has been unwilling to turn over the whistle-blower complaint to Congress, a refusal that has rankled Democrats and heightened calls to impeach Trump. John Wagner, The Denver Post, "Trump denies he sought Ukrainian probe of Joe Biden and his family in return for U.S. military aid," 23 Sep. 2019 The fact is that Hong Kong's financial market is still holding steady, even as months of protests damage the local economy and rankle Beijing. Laura He, CNN, "Macao might be China's 'good kid.' But Hong Kong still has the financial clout," 21 Dec. 2019 Influential Republican senator Orrin Hatch insisted on the provisions, which rankled progressive Democrats and trade counterparts alike. Tim Fernholz, Quartz, "How the USMCA sets the stage for the future of trade," 18 Dec. 2019 The United States is Canada’s largest trading partner — roughly 75 percent of its exports flow to its southern neighbor — and uncertainty over the pact’s future rankled many. Amanda Coletta, Washington Post, "In Canada, relief at a North American trade deal, but concerns for the dairy and aluminum industries," 11 Dec. 2019 His denouncement of the officers’ actions was rejected by the merit board and rankled the police union, with President Rick Snyder indicating that Roach's recommendation may have been politically-motivated. Crystal Hill, Indianapolis Star, "Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Chief Bryan Roach to retire at end of the year," 29 Nov. 2019 That has rankled long-serving officers, as has Mahmoud’s prominent role. The Economist, "The authorities in Egypt raid Mada Masr—and reveal their fears," 28 Nov. 2019 The apparent abruptness of the marijuana policy shift seemed to rankle Moriarty supporters and catch law enforcement agencies off guard. Crystal Hill, Indianapolis Star, "Ryan Mears chosen as new Marion County prosecutor in close vote," 5 Oct. 2019 Facebook's limited disclosures also are likely to rankle regulators, who have pushed the company to provide greater transparency and oversight. Anchorage Daily News, "Facebook suspends tens of thousands of apps following data investigation," 20 Sep. 2019

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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Learn More about rankle

Time Traveler for rankle

Time Traveler

The first known use of rankle was in 1606

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Statistics for rankle

Last Updated

23 Jan 2020

Cite this Entry

“Rankle.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rankled. Accessed 25 January 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

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).


dull or mediocre

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