ran·​kle | \ˈraŋ-kəl \
rankled; rankling\ ˈraŋ-​k(ə-​)liŋ \

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

That rankled some senior officials in the kingdom, according to people familiar with the matter. Tim Higgins, WSJ, "Public Bravado, Private Doubts: Inside the Unraveling of Elon Musk’s Tesla Buyout," 27 Aug. 2018 The moody lighting in another film likewise rankled the denizens of the front office. Longreads, "When the Movies Went West," 15 May 2018 Yet Logan's investment in Westworld has always rankled his father, James Delos, a titan of business. Sandra Upson, WIRED, "Westworld Recap, Season 2 Episode 8: The Great Ghost Nation Mystery," 11 June 2018 The change is likely to rankle some Partners employees who may worry about losing access to certain care providers. Priyanka Dayal Mccluskey, BostonGlobe.com, "Partners HealthCare shifting 100,000 employees, families to company-owned insurer," 27 June 2018 Iran is also rankled by al-Sadr's recent overtures to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which are locked in proxy wars with Tehran in Syria and Yemen. Fox News, "Iraq's al-Sadr, promising reform, is constrained by Iran," 20 May 2018 That style rankled some rivals and investors, but Exxon backed it up with best-in-class performance. Bradley Olson, WSJ, "Exxon, Once a ‘Perfect Machine,’ Is Running Dry," 13 July 2018 But this claiming of Alexander the Great rankled Greece, which is home to a province called Macedonia, once the heart of the ancient Macedonian empire and Alexander the Great’s birthplace. Brigit Katz, Smithsonian, "Why Macedonia’s Government Agreed to Change the Country’s Name," 13 June 2018 But, then as now, his single-minded intensity frequently rankled his rivals. Dale Robertson Staff Writer, San Antonio Express-News, "A dose of perspective on Patrick Reed’s style of play and persona," 11 June 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.

See More

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about rankle

Listen to Our Podcast about rankle

Statistics for rankle

Last Updated

13 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for rankle

The first known use of rankle was in 1606

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

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 \
rankled; rankling

Kids Definition of rankle

: to cause anger, irritation, or bitterness

Keep scrolling for more

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).


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Difficult Vocab Quiz

  • the-education-of-achilles-eugne-delacroix
  • Which is a synonym of discomfit?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!