ransack

verb
ran·​sack | \ ˈran-ˌsak How to pronounce ransack (audio) , (ˌ)ran-ˈsak \
ransacked; ransacking; ransacks

Definition of ransack

transitive verb

1 : 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
2 : 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

Keep scrolling for more

Other Words from ransack

ransacker noun

Did You Know?

Ransack carries the image of a house being torn out of order, as might happen when you are frantically searching for something. This is appropriate given the word's origin. Ransack derives via Middle English from Old Norse "rannsaka"; the "rann" in rannsaka means "house." The second half of "rannsaka" is related to an Old English word, secan, meaning "to seek." But our modern use of the word isn't restricted to houses. You can ransack a drawer, a suitcase, or even the contents of a book (for information). A now-obsolete frequentative form of "ransack," "ransackle," gave us our adjective "ramshackle."

Examples of ransack in a Sentence

Robbers ransacked the apartment looking for money. The room had been ransacked.
Recent Examples on the Web In her resignation letter, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos explained that her sudden departure from the administration was motivated by President Donald Trump’s incendiary words to the crowd that went on to ransack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. Dustin Hornbeck, The Conversation, "Through her divisive rhetoric, Education Secretary DeVos leaves a troubled legacy of her own," 12 Jan. 2021 Posts on Facebook amplified the sense of siege in Kenosha by spreading false rumors that murderous gangs from Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Chicago were coming to ransack the city of 100,000 people. Lyndon French • New York Times, Star Tribune, "A few keystrokes summon vigilantes to Kenosha, Wisconsin," 17 Oct. 2020 Posts on Facebook amplified the sense of siege in Kenosha by spreading false rumors that murderous gangs from Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Chicago were coming to ransack the city of 100,000 people. Lyndon French • New York Times, Star Tribune, "A few keystrokes summon vigilantes to Kenosha, Wisconsin," 17 Oct. 2020 Posts on Facebook amplified the sense of siege in Kenosha by spreading false rumors that murderous gangs from Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Chicago were coming to ransack the city of 100,000 people. Lyndon French • New York Times, Star Tribune, "A few keystrokes summon vigilantes to Kenosha, Wisconsin," 17 Oct. 2020 Posts on Facebook amplified the sense of siege in Kenosha by spreading false rumors that murderous gangs from Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Chicago were coming to ransack the city of 100,000 people. Lyndon French • New York Times, Star Tribune, "A few keystrokes summon vigilantes to Kenosha, Wisconsin," 17 Oct. 2020 Posts on Facebook amplified the sense of siege in Kenosha by spreading false rumors that murderous gangs from Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Chicago were coming to ransack the city of 100,000 people. Lyndon French • New York Times, Star Tribune, "A few keystrokes summon vigilantes to Kenosha, Wisconsin," 17 Oct. 2020 Did Americans miss out on some new state or local law decreeing that it’s now legal to ransack a store or demolish a business? Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, "Vote No on 1984," 2 Nov. 2020 Posts on Facebook amplified the sense of siege in Kenosha by spreading false rumors that murderous gangs from Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Chicago were coming to ransack the city of 100,000 people. Lyndon French • New York Times, Star Tribune, "A few keystrokes summon vigilantes to Kenosha, Wisconsin," 17 Oct. 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ransack.' 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 ransack

13th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for ransack

Middle English ransaken, from Old Norse rannsaka, from rann house + -saka (akin to Old English sēcan to seek) — more at seek

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about ransack

Time Traveler for ransack

Time Traveler

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

See more words from the same century

Listen to Our Podcast about ransack

Statistics for ransack

Last Updated

22 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ransack.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ransack. Accessed 26 Jan. 2021.

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for ransack

ransack

verb
How to pronounce ransack (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of ransack

: to search (a place) for something in a way that causes disorder or damage

ransack

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

Kids Definition of ransack

: to search through in a way that causes disorder or damage Thieves ransacked the room.

Keep scrolling for more

Comments on ransack

What made you want to look up ransack? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

Test Your Vocabulary

Slippery Words Quiz—Changing with the Times

  • ducreux self portrait yawning
  • What is an earlier meaning of nice?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
 AlphaBear 2

Spell words. Make bears.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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