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[ram-shak-uh l] /ˈræmˌʃæk əl/
loosely made or held together; rickety; shaky:
a ramshackle house.
Origin of ramshackle
1815-25; compare earlier rans(h)ackled, obscurely akin to ransack
Related forms
ramshackleness, noun
tumbledown, dilapidated, derelict, flimsy. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for ramshackle
  • Cabins in ramshackle condition and much debris on site.
  • HE walks to a ramshackle building, way off the beaten track of town.
  • He has managed to stay at the head of a ramshackle and demoralised coalition of some dozen parties.
  • Continue past a slew of independent art galleries and witness the slow gentrification of a once ramshackle neighborhood.
  • It is a ramshackle structure painted a bold, bright yellow.
  • Boxes were scattered everywhere in a ramshackle way.
  • The northern towns swell, turning into ramshackle mud cities.
  • The weather-beaten diner has a decidedly ramshackle.
  • But the multiple scandals are straining her ramshackle coalition.
  • It's prisoners live not in cells, but in metal forests and ramshackle cities.
British Dictionary definitions for ramshackle


(esp of buildings) badly constructed or maintained; rickety, shaky, or derelict
Word Origin
C17 ramshackled, from obsolete ransackle to ransack
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for ramshackle

1809, back-formation from ramshackled, earlier ranshackled (1670s), alteration of ransackled, past participle of ransackle (see ransack). The word seems to have been Scottish.

Reading over this note to an American gentleman, he seemed to take alarm, lest the word ramshackle should be palmed on his country. I take it home willingly, as a Scotticism, and one well applied, as may be afterwards shown. [Robert Gourlay, "General Introduction to a Statistical Account of Upper Canada," London, 1822]
Jamieson's "Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language" (1825) has it as a noun meaning "thoughtless, ignorant fellow."

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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