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 This entire rigmarole reflects a deeper failure of the process. Matt Ford, The New Republic, "Amy Coney Barrett and the Death of the Supreme Court Confirmation Hearing," 14 Oct. 2020 Americans have grown used to cops leading their expeditions through the rigmarole of existence. Stephen Kearse, The Atlantic, "The End of The Fictional Cop," 31 July 2020 Going through the rigmarole of putting out Oreos on Christmas Eve may leave an exceptional impression on a young mind. Bret Stetka, Scientific American, "From Dinosaurs to Disney, Children Take Cues from Adults on Real vs. Make-Believe," 17 June 2020 The surgery wasn’t meant to keep Aldridge from having to go through the league’s Disney bubble rigmarole, but that seems to be the side effect. Jeff Mcdonald, ExpressNews.com, "If NBA Disney happens, Spurs face a steep climb," 13 June 2020 Why would Charlotte need to go through all that security rigmarole if Serac was only a hologram? Scott Tobias, New York Times, "‘Westworld’ Season 3, Episode 3 Recap: Predators and Prey," 29 Mar. 2020 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

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

17 Oct 2020

Cite this Entry

“Rigmarole.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rigmarole. Accessed 29 Oct. 2020.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on rigmarole

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for rigmarole

Nglish: Translation of rigmarole for Spanish Speakers

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