rig·​ma·​role | \ ˈri-gə-mə-ˌrōl How to pronounce rigmarole (audio) , ˈrig-mə- \
variants: or less commonly

Definition of rigmarole

1 : confused or meaningless talk
2 : a complex and sometimes ritualistic procedure

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Did You Know?

In the Middle Ages, the term Rageman or Ragman referred to a game in which a player randomly selected a string attached to a roll of verses and read the selected verse. The roll was called a Ragman roll after a fictional king purported to be the author of the verses. By the 16th century, ragman and ragman roll were being used figuratively to mean "a list or catalog." Both terms fell out of written use, but ragman roll persisted in speech, and in the 18th century it resurfaced in writing as rigmarole, with the meaning "a succession of confused, meaningless, or foolish statements." In the mid-19th century rigmarole (also spelled rigamarole, reflecting its common pronunciation) acquired its most recent sense, "a complex and ritualistic procedure."

Examples of rigmarole in a Sentence

We had to go through the rigmarole of installing, registering, and activating the software before we found out it wouldn't work. He just told us what to do without all the usual rigamarole.
Recent Examples on the Web The first was to allow Page to remove himself from the rigmarole of running the Google business. Wired, "Larry, Sergey, and the Mixed Legacy of Google-Turned-Alphabet," 5 Dec. 2019 The whole rigmarole afforded the opposition leaders lots of attention in the media and reminded the world of the ongoing subversion of democracy by Hun Sen, Cambodia’s strongman of 34 years. The Economist, "Cambodia eases up on one dissident to distract attention from another," 14 Nov. 2019 For a company owner, a clean sale is usually preferable to the rigmarole of going public. Washington Post, "Elliott’s U.K. Fixer-Upper Gets Another Lift," 12 Mar. 2019 Some collectors are starting to find the rigmarole rather tedious. Hannah Elliottbloomberg, Los Angeles Times, "Have we hit peak supercar?," 9 Sep. 2019 Here and there across the Arab world, private VIP services, often in cahoots with official security chiefs, sell fast-track passage to bypass the rigmarole faced by hoi polloi. The Economist, "How airports explain the Arab world," 29 June 2019 These types of vehicles give private shareholders like Apollo a way to access to public investors without going through the IPO rigmarole. Lauren Silva Laughlin, WSJ, "Chuck E. Cheese’s Deal May Have Short Shelf Life," 11 Apr. 2019 Newsletter Sign-up What unites this rigmarole is the notion that a great work of art serves as a conduit between the conscious and the unconscious mind. Sam Sacks, WSJ, "Fiction Books: Grace Abounding to the Outsider Artist," 5 Oct. 2018 Aside from such rigmarole, the Surface Laptop 2 seems worth it. Mark Hachman, PCWorld, "Hands on with the Microsoft Surface Laptop 2: Still a great laptop, now without Windows 10 S," 3 Oct. 2018

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

circa 1736, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for rigmarole

alteration of obsolete ragman roll long list, catalog

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Time Traveler for rigmarole

Time Traveler

The first known use of rigmarole was circa 1736

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Last Updated

11 Dec 2019

Cite this Entry

“Rigmarole.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rigmarole. Accessed 14 December 2019.

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More Definitions for rigmarole


How to pronounce rigmarole (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of rigmarole

: a long, complicated, and annoying process, description, etc.


rig·​ma·​role | \ ˈrig-mə-ˌrōl \

Kids Definition of rigmarole

1 : a long and usually meaningless or uninteresting story
2 : a complicated and often unnecessary procedure

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More from Merriam-Webster on rigmarole

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for rigmarole

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with rigmarole

Spanish Central: Translation of rigmarole

Nglish: Translation of rigmarole for Spanish Speakers

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