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


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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 The inclusion of Iran may rankle some Americans, given the enduring enmity between that country and the U.S. Editorial Board, Star Tribune, "Afghan peace process needs a jolt," 9 Mar. 2021 What really seems to rankle the most famous resident of Mar-a-Lago isn’t his caricature of our policy differences. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Donald Trump’s Georgia Rewrite," 4 Mar. 2021 Backing big federal programs, even those that rankle Republicans, can pay political dividends—as long as people feel the difference in their lives. Sam Adler-bell, The New Republic, "Joe Manchin, King of the Senate," 3 Feb. 2021 The bitter jokiness of the coda may some rankle Wilson purists. Michael Phillips, chicagotribune.com, "‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ review: In 1927 Chicago, Chadwick Boseman, Viola Davis and August Wilson play glorious three-part harmony," 20 Nov. 2020 On Friday, his administration is expected to begin economic talks with Taiwan that are likely to rankle Beijing. Ana Swanson, New York Times, "Biden’s China Policy? A Balancing Act for a Toxic Relationship," 16 Nov. 2020 Diseases can fester in moist hooves, and stubborn fungus or rain rot can rankle the sensitive skin on their legs and cause excessive swelling. Brooke Baitinger, sun-sentinel.com, "Eta’s floodwaters drowned horse barns in South Florida. Now owners are scrambling to find dry land.," 13 Nov. 2020 In 1860, Democrat Stephen Douglas understood that the election of anti-slavery Republican Abraham Lincoln would rankle Southerners—and possibly inspire rebellion. Amy Mckeever, National Geographic, "No modern presidential candidate has refused to concede. Here’s why that matters.," 8 Nov. 2020 Defense Secretary Mark Esper is reportedly helping members of Congress draft the language in the compromise legislation, a move sure to rankle Trump. Jamie Mcintyre, Washington Examiner, "Democrats in Congress will play a weak hand in negotiations on defense," 6 Nov. 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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Last Updated

22 Mar 2021

Cite this Entry

“Rankle.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rankle. Accessed 7 May. 2021.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on rankle

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for rankle

Nglish: Translation of rankle for Spanish Speakers

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