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 Swedish forces ransacked the castle during the mid-1600s, and by 1729, workers had partially demolished its ruins in order to use the building materials for construction of a church. Theresa Machemer, Smithsonian Magazine, "Watch Seven Medieval Castles’ Digital Reconstruction," 31 Mar. 2020 Over the years, the inside of the vacant building has been ransacked, set on fire and torn apart from ceiling to floor. Bob Sandrick, cleveland, "Drunk driver Tasered after wrestling with police: Brook Park Police Blotter," 10 Jan. 2020 Demonstrators have abandoned cars along major highways and ransacked some 100 banks and stores in the country, according to Iran's semiofficial Fars news agency. Kim Hjelmgaard, USA TODAY, "They have different causes and aims but mass protests from Iran to Hong Kong accelerate," 18 Nov. 2019 In the capital, Port-au-Prince, hundreds of opposition supporters ransacked a police station used by a special tactical unit, hauling out office furniture and even Kevlar vests and ammunition in the city shantytown of Cite Soleil. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Protesters in Haiti burn businesses in push to oust leader," 27 Sep. 2019 Yet the planet’s most intelligent species has treated the earth as a resource to be ransacked for short-term gain, regardless of the long-term harms. Los Angeles Times, "Why Joaquin Phoenix’s Oscar speech doesn’t seem so crazy in our coronavirus times," 15 Apr. 2020 Schizophrenia ransacked six of the Galvin boys’ minds: Their hallucinations turned to full delusion, and some of the boys’ anger transformed into violent rage and paranoia. Josephine Livingstone, The New Republic, "What Causes Schizophrenia?," 14 Apr. 2020 The pandemic crisis is ransacking communities large and small, and Washington is poised to go beyond the $2.2 trillion package approved just two weeks ago. Lisa Mascaro, BostonGlobe.com, "Mnuchin says direct deposits out next week for virus aid," 8 Apr. 2020 Bernard and Serac may have different motivations, but Dolores’ current mission to ransack the human world has them both scrambling to stop her. Scott Tobias, New York Times, "‘Westworld’ Season 3, Episode 2 Recap: A Band of Thugs," 22 Mar. 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.

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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

15 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ransack.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ransack. Accessed 28 May. 2020.

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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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