ran·sack | \ˈran-ˌsak, (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

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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

The pharmacist said nothing, now pulling imaginary pill bottles out of an empty metal cupboard Violet had already ransacked. Andrew Liptak, The Verge, "A transgender girl rises up against alien invaders in Rich Larson’s novel Annex," 8 July 2018 The burglar ransacked several rooms including the attic, and the kitchen freezer, eventually taking an iPad, a Wii console, a Samsung tablet, an Apple laptop and a watch. Kathy Routliffe, chicagotribune.com, "Wilmette blotter: Burglars use second floor window to enter, ransack house and steal electronic goods," 2 July 2018 Infrastructure was ravaged, homes and businesses ransacked. Marissa Lang, San Francisco Chronicle, "Rwanda is pushing gender diversity in tech. Should Silicon Valley take notes?," 13 Jan. 2018 Burglars had ransacked the apartment, taking valuable items and the blue nose pit bull. Maria Carter, Country Living, "This Brave Puppy Jumped Out of a Moving Truck After Burglars Took Him," 31 July 2015 The officers had been in the area searching for three burglary suspects who had fled to Glendale after sheriff’s deputies had staked out a home in Tarzana that had been ransacked. Andy Nguyen, latimes.com, "Actor alleges racial profiling by sheriff’s department after wrongful arrest in Glendale," 13 June 2018 But then the terror group came to Chibok, ransacking the school, burning buildings and imposing strict Islamic law on the village. Susan Snyder, Philly.com, "Dickinson College president opens doors to former captives of terrorist group, and it's not the first time," 18 May 2018 Presumably, Thanos figured out that Loki had the Space Stone and ransacked the ship to get it. Eliana Dockterman, Time, "Everything to Know About Marvel’s Infinity Stones Before You See Avengers: Infinity War," 24 Apr. 2018 Burglars broke into three restaurants in the East Crossroads early Friday, smashing through doors, ransacking offices and ripping out surveillance and alarm equipment. Glenn E. Rice, kansascity, "'A lot of damage to everybody': Burglars ransack East Crossroads restaurants | The Kansas City Star," 13 Apr. 2018

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.

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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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Dictionary Entries near ransack

Rann of Kachchh







Statistics for ransack

Last Updated

17 Oct 2018

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Time Traveler for ransack

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

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More Definitions for ransack



English Language Learners Definition of ransack

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


ran·sack | \ˈran-ˌsak \
ransacked; ransacking

Kids Definition of ransack

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

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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).


to reject or criticize sharply

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