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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
Contemporary Examples
Historical Examples
  • The peons rarely have anything better than ramshackle quarters.

    The Amazing Argentine John Foster Fraser
  • His ramshackle dwelling was an eighth of a mile from the Gould-Hamilton place.

    Mary-'Gusta Joseph C. Lincoln
  • There were some clumsily indicated buildings, possibly sheds and stables of daub and wattle, eking out the ramshackle house.

    The Dop Doctor Clotilde Inez Mary Graves
  • There was one idle and worthless journeyman in the ramshackle office, and one only.

    Despair's Last Journey David Christie Murray
  • You've seen them crack far harder nuts than this ramshackle old castle of yours!

    The White Blackbird Hudson Douglas
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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