1 [rag]
a worthless piece of cloth, especially one that is torn or worn.
rags, ragged or tattered clothing: The tramp was dressed in rags.
any article of apparel regarded deprecatingly or self-deprecatingly, especially a dress: It's just an old rag I had in the closet.
a shred, scrap, or fragmentary bit of anything.
something of very low value or in very poor condition.
a newspaper or magazine regarded with contempt or distaste: Are you still subscribing to that rag?
a person of shabby or exhausted appearance.
a large roofing slate that has one edge untrimmed.
chew the rag. chew ( def 11 ).
from rags to riches, from extreme poverty to great wealth: He went from rags to riches in only three years.

1275–1325; Middle English ragge < Scandinavian; compare Norwegian, Swedish ragg coarse hair < Old Norse rǫgg

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2 [rag] Informal.
verb (used with object), ragged, ragging.
to scold.
to subject to a teasing, especially in an intense or prolonged way (often followed by on ): Some of the boys were ragging on him about his haircut.
British. to torment with jokes; play crude practical jokes on.
British. an act of ragging.

1790–1800; origin uncertain


3 [rag]
verb (used with object), ragged, ragging.
to break up (lumps of ore) for sorting.

1870–75; origin uncertain


4 [rag]
a musical composition in ragtime: a piano rag.
verb (used with object), ragged, ragging.
to play (music) in ragtime.

1895–1900; shortened form of ragtime

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Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2014.
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World English Dictionary
rag1 (ræɡ)
1.  a.  a small piece of cloth, such as one torn from a discarded garment, or such pieces of cloth collectively
 b.  (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.  slang esp (Brit) nautical a flag or ensign
7.  lose one's rag to lose one's temper suddenly
[C14: probably back formation from ragged, from Old English raggig; related to Old Norse rögg tuft]

rag2 (ræɡ)
vb , 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
3.  (Brit) a boisterous practical joke, esp one on a fellow student
4.  in British universities
 a.  a period, usually a week, in which various events are organized to raise money for charity, including a procession of decorated floats and tableaux
 b.  (as modifier): rag day
[C18: of uncertain origin]

rag3 (ræɡ)
1.  a piece of ragtime music
vb , rags, ragging, ragged
2.  (tr) to compose or perform in ragtime
[C20: shortened from ragtime]

rag4 (ræɡ)
a roofing slate that is rough on one side
[C13: of obscure origin]

rags (ræɡz)
pl n
1.  torn, old, or shabby clothing
2.  cotton or linen cloth waste used in the manufacture of rag paper
3.  informal from rags to riches
 a.  from poverty to great wealth
 b.  (as modifier): a rags-to-riches tale
4.  informal glad rags best clothes; finery

Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 10th Edition
2009 © William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009
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Word Origin & History

c.1310, probably from O.N. rogg "shaggy tuft," earlier raggw-, or possibly from O.Dan. rag (see rug), or a back-formation from ragged (c.1300), which is from O.N. raggaðr "shaggy," via O.E. raggig "rag-like." It also may represent an unrecorded O.E. cognate of O.N. rogg.
As an insulting term for "newspaper, magazine" it dates from 1734; slang for "tampon, sanitary napkin" is attested from 1930s. Rags "personal clothing" is from 1855, Amer.Eng. Rags-to-riches "rise from poverty to wealth" is attested from 1947. Ragtop "convertible car" is from 1955. Raghead, insulting term for "South Asian or Middle Eastern person," first attested 1921.

"scold," 1739, of unknown origin; perhaps related to Dan. dialectal rag "grudge."
Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang Dictionary

rag definition

  1. n.
    a newspaper. : What a rag! It's only good for putting in the bottom of bird cages!
  2. n.
    ugly or badly styled clothing; an ugly garment. : I can't wear that rag!
  3. n.
    any clothing, even the best. (Always plural.) : Man, I got some new rags that will knock your eyes out!
  4. n.
    a sanitary napkin; a tampon. (For use in the menstrual cycle. Usually objectionable.) : God, I've got to change this rag!
Dictionary of American Slang and Colloquial Expressions by Richard A. Spears.Fourth Edition.
Copyright 2007. Published by McGraw-Hill Education.
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Example sentences
Our clothes were in rags, our appearance unkempt and forbidding.
The rags should be washed separately from your other clothes.
Others were leaving with rags still pressed to their faces, a response to the
  stench inside.
All my stuff, rags and buckets, was scattered behind me on the steps.
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