rig·​ma·​role ˈri-gə-mə-ˌrōl How to pronounce rigmarole (audio)
variants or less commonly rigamarole
plural rigmaroles also rigamaroles
: something (such as a procedure or an explanation) that is long, complicated, and tedious
I went to my insurers and started the usual rigmarole.Cliff Ballinger
The whole rigmarole of getting a visa didn't even exist until recent decades.Mary Sanchez
Why the hold-up? There's still a whole bunch of legal rigamarole to work out …Tristan Hopper
We went through the usual social rigmaroles, drinking something white and sharp.Tim Parks
Patients can report product problems to a helpline but if they have other questions, it can be a rigmarole just to find the right regulator.Laura Hancock
We know now … the real reason McDonald's ice cream machines always seem to be broken is because they're not—they just take four hours and an 11-step process to clean. This rigmarole is often what's actually preventing McDonald's employees from serving up your hot fudge sundae.Megan Scott
Mrs. Buttler isn't a constant visitor. She arrives irregularly, with some long rigmarole of complaint, some urgent awful news.Alice Munro
dated : confused or meaningless talk
It is as if they had been named by the child's rigmaroleHenry David Thoreau
… Fred ended his rigmarole, in which he had jumbled together pell-mell nautical phrases and facts out of one of his favorite books.Louisa May Alcott

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 the sense referring to a complex and ritualistic procedure.

Example Sentences

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 Spare yourself the rigmarole, reap the benefits. Charles C. W. Cooke, National Review, 12 May 2022 In granting this case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the court takes us all the way back to the heart of the matter, to whether a state can skip all the rigmarole and just impose a flat-out ban on some — or all — abortions before fetal viability. Linda Greenhouse, Star Tribune, 20 May 2021 Going through all this rigmarole before turning to T may seem frustrating or pointless, given the wide availability of the hormone. Mark Hay, Men's Health, 27 Feb. 2023 Despite the now-tedious rigmarole of reviewing collections digitally—my long-trusty late 2014 MacBook Air is exhibiting symptoms of imminent obsolescence—this season was uniquely fascinating because designers really are designing for a future that will be very different to the present. Vogue Runway, Vogue, 15 Mar. 2021 The rigmarole would essentially freeze 2021 prices, precisely as insulin prices are poised to fall further. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 27 Nov. 2022 Mike Mills’s parenting drama was going to go as far as star Joaquin Phoenix was willing to carry it, and since Phoenix already went through the whole rigmarole two years ago for Joker, that wasn’t very far. Vulture, 10 Feb. 2022 In any case, Alaskans will have to do this rigmarole again soon. The Editorial Board, WSJ, 1 Sep. 2022 Some of the usual hijinks ensue, the rigmarole of tense questions about whether the family will find out, and how, and what Esther’s going to do about it. K. Austin Collins, Rolling Stone, 24 Aug. 2022 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'rigmarole.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


alteration of obsolete ragman roll long list, catalog

First Known Use

circa 1736, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Time Traveler
The first known use of rigmarole was circa 1736


Dictionary Entries Near rigmarole

Cite this Entry

“Rigmarole.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/rigmarole. Accessed 1 Jun. 2023.

Kids Definition


variants also rigamarole
: confused or meaningless talk : nonsense
: a complicated and often unnecessary procedure

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