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

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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 Over the last week, demonstrators in Iran set fire to banks and police stations and ransacked public office buildings and blocked roads, according to rights groups. Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY, "'Tool of repression': Iran and regimes from Ethiopia to Venezuela limit Internet, go dark online," 24 Nov. 2019 Someone threw a brick through the front glass window of a business in the 600 block of Madison Street and ransacked the office between 11:38 p.m. and 11:48 p.m. Oct. 27. chicagotribune.com, "Oak Park police: Two men rob pedestrian, threaten witness along Austin Boulevard," 4 Nov. 2019 Three armed and masked men robbed an armored truck Wednesday afternoon in Greenwood Village startling a guard, ordering the victim to the ground with a weapon to her head as the truck was ransacked. Kieran Nicholson, The Denver Post, "Three masked, armed men rob cash from armored truck in Greenwood Village," 31 Oct. 2019 Marine reserve colonel and head of the Antiquities Tracking Unit of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office Matthew Bogdanos was in Baghdad in 2003 when looters ransacked the Iraq National Museum. Jason Daley, Smithsonian, "The Smithsonian and the Army Join Forces to Revive the Monuments Men," 26 Oct. 2019 Seven women were raped, and many houses were ransacked or burned, according to the Réseau National de Défense des Droits Humains. Edwidge Danticat, The New Yorker, "Demonstrators in Haiti Are Fighting for an Uncertain Future," 10 Oct. 2019 Many thought protesters went too far by ransacking government property. Joshua Berlinger And Eric Cheung, CNN, "'Burn with us': How a summer of protest pushed young Hong Kongers to the edge," 26 Sep. 2019 Red Guards tried to ransack the place, says Han Sulian, a temple volunteer. The Economist, "China’s atheist Communist Party encourages folk religion," 19 Sep. 2019 Shops, agricultural estates and government offices in Quito, the capital, have been ransacked. The Economist, "Ecuador falls into chaos after the president cuts fuel subsidies," 10 Oct. 2019

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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Time Traveler for ransack

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

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Last Updated

28 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Ransack.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ransack. Accessed 7 December 2019.

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More Definitions for ransack


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


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.

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More from Merriam-Webster on ransack

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for ransack

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ransack

Spanish Central: Translation of ransack

Nglish: Translation of ransack for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of ransack for Arabic Speakers

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