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rag1

[rag] /ræg/
noun
1.
a worthless piece of cloth, especially one that is torn or worn.
2.
rags, ragged or tattered clothing:
The tramp was dressed in rags.
3.
any article of apparel regarded deprecatingly or self-deprecatingly, especially a dress:
It's just an old rag I had in the closet.
4.
a shred, scrap, or fragmentary bit of anything.
5.
Informal.
  1. something of very low value or in very poor condition.
  2. a newspaper or magazine regarded with contempt or distaste:
    Are you still subscribing to that rag?
6.
a person of shabby or exhausted appearance.
7.
a large roofing slate that has one edge untrimmed.
Idioms
8.
chew the rag. chew (def 11).
9.
from rags to riches, from extreme poverty to great wealth:
He went from rags to riches in only three years.
Origin
1275-1325
1275-1325; Middle English ragge < Scandinavian; compare Norwegian, Swedish ragg coarse hair < Old Norse rǫgg
Dictionary.com Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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British Dictionary definitions for from rags to riches

rag1

/ræɡ/
noun
1.
  1. a small piece of cloth, such as one torn from a discarded garment, or such pieces of cloth collectively
  2. (as modifier): a rag doll, a rag book, rag paper
2.
a fragmentary piece of any material; scrap; shred
3.
(informal) a newspaper or other journal, esp one considered as worthless, sensational, etc
4.
(informal) an item of clothing
5.
(informal) a handkerchief
6.
(Brit, slang) especially (nautical) a flag or ensign
7.
lose one's rag, to lose one's temper suddenly
See also rags
Word Origin
C14: probably back formation from ragged, from Old English raggig; related to Old Norse rögg tuft

rag2

/ræɡ/
verb (transitive) rags, ragging, ragged
1.
to draw attention facetiously and persistently to the shortcomings or alleged shortcomings of (a person)
2.
(Brit) to play rough practical jokes on
noun
3.
(Brit) a boisterous practical joke, esp one on a fellow student
4.
(in British universities)
  1. a period, usually a week, in which various events are organized to raise money for charity, including a procession of decorated floats and tableaux
  2. (as modifier): rag day
Word Origin
C18: of uncertain origin

rag3

/ræɡ/
noun
1.
a piece of ragtime music
verb rags, ragging, ragged
2.
(transitive) to compose or perform in ragtime
Word Origin
C20: shortened from ragtime

rag4

/ræɡ/
noun
1.
a roofing slate that is rough on one side
Word Origin
C13: of obscure origin
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 from rags to riches

rag

n.

scrap of cloth, early 14c., probably from Old Norse rögg "shaggy tuft," earlier raggw-, or possibly from Old Danish rag (see rug), or a back-formation from ragged, It also may represent an unrecorded Old English cognate of Old Norse rögg. Watkins traces the Old Norse word through Proto-Germanic *rawwa-, from PIE root *reue- "to smash, knock down, tear up, uproot" (see rough (adj.)).

As an insulting term for "newspaper, magazine" it dates from 1734; slang for "tampon, sanitary napkin" is attested from 1930s (on the rag "menstruating" is from 1948). Rags "personal clothing" is from 1855 (singular), American English. Rags-to-riches "rise from poverty to wealth" is attested by 1896. Rag-picker is from 1860; rag-shop from 1829.

v.

"scold," 1739, of unknown origin; perhaps related to Danish dialectal rag "grudge." Related: Ragged; ragging. Cf. bullyrag, ballarag "intimidate" (1807).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for from rags to riches

rag

noun
  1. An article of clothing: She got into her rags (1855+)
  2. A tent (1940s+ Circus)
  3. The pennant awarded to the annual winner of a league championship (1908+ Baseball)
  4. A newspaper or magazine, esp one that the speaker does not like: This so-called revolutionary organ is a horrible rag (1734+)
  5. ragtime (1897+)
  6. A piece of ragtime music (1897+)
verb
  1. To play in a ragtime style: The street bands ragged a tune by taking one note and putting two or three in its place (1897+)
  2. To tease; banter disparagingly with; needle, ride: Sometimes we'd rag one another in the rough manner that is safe only for friends (1808+)
Related Terms

the big rag, damp rag, glad rags


The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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Idioms and Phrases with from rags to riches

from rags to riches

From being poor to being wealthy, especially through one's own efforts. For example, The invention catapulted the scientist from rags to riches. Horatio Alger (1834–1899) popularized this theme in some 130 best-selling novels, in which the hero, through hard work and thrift, pulled himself out of poverty to wealth and happiness.

rag

In addition to the idiom beginning with
rag
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary
Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company.
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