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[rang-kuh l] /ˈræŋ kəl/
verb (used without object), rankled, rankling.
(of unpleasant feelings, experiences, etc.) to continue to cause keen irritation or bitter resentment within the mind; fester; be painful.
verb (used with object), rankled, rankling.
to cause keen irritation or bitter resentment in:
His colleague's harsh criticism rankled him for days.
Origin of rankle
1250-1300; Middle English ranclen < Middle French rancler, Old French raoncler, variant of draoncler to fester, derivative of draoncle a sore < Late Latin dracunculus small serpent, diminutive of Latin dracō serpent; see dragon, carbuncle
Related forms
ranklingly, adverb
unrankled, adjective
1, 2. irritate, gall, chafe. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for rankling
Historical Examples
  • It was clear that Long Ted's frustrated holiday was still a rankling subject in that worthy's breast.

    In Search of El Dorado Alexander MacDonald
  • Yet the knowledge imparted to him by the chambermaid was rankling in his mind.

    Sister Carrie Theodore Dreiser
  • The rankling question of Tacna and Arica has been at the base of the Peruvian attitude.

  • She could not understand the amount of offence which was rankling in Mary's bosom.

    Is He Popenjoy? Anthony Trollope
  • For the first time a rankling doubt of the wisdom of his decision disturbed his complacency.

    The Fortunes of the Farrells Mrs. George de Horne Vaizey
  • The loss of the horse had been rankling in his heart all day.

    Hopalong Cassidy's Rustler Round-Up Clarence Edward Mulford
  • Now, that this offence was rankling is p. 71evident, and it explains the fracas which took place at the opening.

    Pickwickian Studies Percy Fitzgerald
  • The poison, rankling in her veins, she knew could not be expelled by idle sophisms.

    Under the Witches' Moon Nathan Gallizier
  • An offence remained for ever rankling in his heart and mind.

  • Allow me to leave this room, my dear rankling, and I'll beg your acceptance of this one.

    The Schoolmistress Arthur W. Pinero
British Dictionary definitions for rankling


(intransitive) to cause severe and continuous irritation, anger, or bitterness; fester: his failure to win still rankles
Word Origin
C14 ranclen, from Old French draoncler to fester, from draoncle ulcer, from Latin dracunculus small serpent, from dracō serpent; see dragon
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 rankling



c.1300, "to fester," from Old French rancler, earlier raoncler, draoncler "to suppurate, run," from draoncle "abscess, festering sore," from Medieval Latin dracunculus, literally "little dragon," diminutive of Latin draco "serpent, dragon" (see dragon). The notion is of an ulcer caused by a snake's bite. Meaning "cause to fester" is from c.1400. Related: Rankled; rankling.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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