ran·​sack ˈran-ˌsak How to pronounce ransack (audio)
ransacked; ransacking; ransacks

transitive verb

: to look through thoroughly in often a rough way
… he and 15 staff members watched agents ransack the office.Christian Caryl et al.
In desperation, I ransacked my refrigerator for something else to whip up.Dana Bowen
(figurative) Most novelists ransack their lives for that first novel; it might be called involuntary reporting.Tom Wolfe
: to search through and steal from in a forceful and damaging way : plunder
Thieves ransacked the house.
Louis XVI was persuaded to risk a navy far from its own shores and to ransack the French arsenals for arms and ammunition …C. P. Reynolds
ransacker noun

Did you know?

Ransack carries the image of a house being roughly disarranged, as might happen when you are frantically searching for something. This is appropriate given the word’s origin. Ransack comes, via Middle English, from the Old Norse word rannsaka: the rann in rannsaka means “house”; the second half of rannsaka is what is known as an “ablaut” variant of sœkja, meaning “to seek, search out.” But our modern use of the word isn’t restricted to houses. You can ransack a drawer, a suitcase, or even (by hurriedly looking through it) the contents of a book. Ransack also inspired another English word related to disorder and unsteadiness. A now-obsolete form of ransack, ransackle, gave us our adjective ramshackle, meaning “rickety” or “carelessly or loosely constructed.”

Examples of ransack in a Sentence

Robbers ransacked the apartment looking for money. The room had been ransacked.
Recent Examples on the Web Union troops—many of them drunk—began ransacking Columbia. Sarah Kuta, Smithsonian Magazine, 22 Nov. 2023 While one thief took Capone to the back of the Jeep, another jumped into Garcia’s car and ransacked it, Garcia said. City News Service, Los Angeles Times, 7 Nov. 2023 Surveillance video shows a group of thieves ransacking a local Philadelphia pharmacy while armed with axes and hammers during a wild night of looting across the City of Brotherly Love. Sarah Rumpf-Whitten, Fox News, 10 Oct. 2023 Nothing happened for a few months, and then one afternoon A.J. went to his father’s house after work and found the living room ransacked, the dogs barking in the yard and the F.B.I.’s 16-page charging document on the table. Eli Saslow Erin Schaff, New York Times, 19 Nov. 2023 Some were trapped in the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, hunkering down beside lawmakers when rioters loyal to Donald Trump ransacked the building. Derek Hawkins, Washington Post, 13 Nov. 2023 Manipur’s police have done almost nothing while Meitei groups ransacked their armories. Sushant Singh, Foreign Affairs, 4 Sep. 2023 What wasn’t reported, as Mr. Holden recalled, was that his house and car were ransacked more than once, and that his research material about Prince Charles was stolen. Penelope Green, New York Times, 27 Oct. 2023 Police say that the group of looters ransacked Fairmount Pharmacy in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at 10:50 p.m. Sarah Rumpf-Whitten, Fox News, 10 Oct. 2023 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ransack.' 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 ransaken, from Old Norse rannsaka, from rann house + -saka (akin to Old English sēcan to seek) — more at seek

First Known Use

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of ransack was in the 13th century


Dictionary Entries Near ransack

Cite this Entry

“Ransack.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ransack. Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

Kids Definition


ran·​sack ˈran-ˌsak How to pronounce ransack (audio)
: to search thoroughly
: to search through in order to rob
ransacker noun

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