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

Other Words from ransack

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 derives, via Middle English ransaken, from Old Norse rannsaka; the rann in rannsaka means "house." The second half of rannsaka is related to an Old English word, sēcan, 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 Yet Eastman continued the pressure even during the riot, while Pence and lawmakers huddled in safe rooms as hundreds of people battled with police and broke windows to enter and ransack the building. Sarah D. Wire, Los Angeles Times, 4 Apr. 2022 Thieves steal from about 90 cargo containers a day; sometimes an organized group halts trains and recruits people living on the street to ransack the containers. Amy Hubbard, Los Angeles Times, 18 Jan. 2022 Guerrero estimates that about 90 cargo containers a day are compromised, sometimes by an organized group that has halted trains and recruited people living on the street to ransack the containers. Rachel Uranga, oregonlive, 17 Jan. 2022 The committee was established to investigate the circumstances that caused a pro-Trump mob to ransack the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, briefly stopping lawmakers from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. Matthew Brown, USA TODAY, 11 Jan. 2022 In such cases, several robbers swarm a store, ransack the shelves and run away, sometimes assaulting shoppers and store employees in the process. CBS News, 27 Nov. 2021 The panelists react to the ‘consequences’ of the left’s policies as a series of thieves ransack numerous stores. Fox News, 22 Nov. 2021 Also in hiding was a former Interior Ministry police officer who had seen Taliban fighters ransack the ministry, combing through paperwork that contained detailed information about employees. New York Times, 21 Aug. 2021 The new reporting on what US Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark Milley did after Trump encouraged January 6 protesters to ransack the Capitol during the counting of electoral votes is both fantastical and reassuring. Zachary B. Wolf, CNN, 15 Sep. 2021 See More

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.

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

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

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Last Updated

16 Apr 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ransack.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ransack. Accessed 24 May. 2022.

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More Definitions for ransack


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 … I could tell the house was a disaster; it looked like it'd been ransacked by thieves.— Ransom Riggs, Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children

More from Merriam-Webster on ransack

Nglish: Translation of ransack for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ransack for Arabic Speakers


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