1 : to look through thoroughly in often a rough way
2 : to search through and steal from in a forceful and damaging way : plunder
Did You Know?
Ransack carries the image of a house being roughly disarranged, as might happen when you are frantically searching for something. This is appropriate given the word's origin. Ransack derives, via Middle English ransaken, from Old Norse rannsaka; the rann in rannsaka means "house." The second half of rannsaka is related to an Old English word, sēcan, 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.
The kids had ransacked the cabinets looking for snacks, leaving not a chip or cracker uneaten.
"Also in the spring, I bring the bird feeders inside the house to avoid tempting bears into our yard…. A resident bear only had to ransack my feeders once for me to learn my lesson." — Aislinn Sarnacki, The Bangor (Maine) Daily News, 6 June 2019
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