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[rangk] /ræŋk/
adjective, ranker, rankest.
growing with excessive luxuriance; vigorous and tall of growth:
tall rank weeds.
producing an excessive and coarse growth, as land.
having an offensively strong smell or taste:
a rank cigar.
offensively strong, as a smell or taste.
utter; absolute:
a rank amateur; rank treachery.
highly offensive; disgusting:
a rank sight of carnage.
grossly coarse, vulgar, or indecent:
rank language.
Slang. inferior; contemptible.
Origin of rank2
before 1000; Middle English; Old English ranc bold, proud; cognate with Old Norse rakkr straight, bold
Related forms
rankish, adjective
rankly, adverb
rankness, noun
1. abundant, exuberant. 5. complete, sheer, entire. 6. repulsive, repellent. See flagrant. 7. foul. Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the Web for rankness
Historical Examples
  • That is why we welcome the big, genial sanity of Walt Whitman, for he has about him the rankness and sweetness of the Earth.

  • Their flesh has no rankness, nor is inferiour in flavour to our common venison.

  • Its flesh is white and delicate, and has the usual taste, without any rankness.

    The History of Louisiana Le Page Du Pratz
  • And the rankness of the growth of this evil is not more startling than its rapidity.

    Public School Education Michael Mller
  • rankness affords, in fact, a typical illustration of predisposition to disease.

    Disease in Plants H. Marshall Ward
  • The chief resemblance seemed to be a certain "rankness in cussin'."

    Polly Thomas Nelson Page
  • Owing to the rankness of its food, the smell of the Fulmar is very offensive.

  • This it does in some instances by smothering them, through the rankness of the growth.

  • Like poisonous toadstools in rankness and gloom, the worst of human nature must flourish here.

    Sinister Street, vol. 2 Compton Mackenzie
  • They seem not to mind its rankness, for the fruit is all taken by the time it has turned black-ripe.

    Trees Every Child Should Know Julia Ellen Rogers
British Dictionary definitions for rankness


a position, esp an official one, within a social organization, esp the armed forces: the rank of captain
high social or other standing; status
a line or row of people or things
the position of an item in any ordering or sequence
(Brit) a place where taxis wait to be hired
a line of soldiers drawn up abreast of each other Compare file1 (sense 5)
any of the eight horizontal rows of squares on a chessboard
(in systemic grammar) one of the units of description of which a grammar is composed. Ranks of English grammar are sentence, clause, group, word, and morpheme
(music) a set of organ pipes controlled by the same stop
(maths) (of a matrix) the largest number of linearly independent rows or columns; the number of rows (or columns) of the nonzero determinant of greatest order that can be extracted from the matrix
(military) break ranks, to fall out of line, esp when under attack
close ranks, to maintain discipline or solidarity, esp in anticipation of attack
pull rank, to get one's own way by virtue of one's superior position or rank
(transitive) to arrange (people or things) in rows or lines; range
to accord or be accorded a specific position in an organization, society, or group
(transitive) to array (a set of objects) as a sequence, esp in terms of the natural arithmetic ordering of some measure of the elements: to rank students by their test scores
(intransitive) to be important; rate: money ranks low in her order of priorities
(mainly US) to take precedence or surpass in rank: the colonel ranks at this camp
Word Origin
C16: from Old French ranc row, rank, of Germanic origin; compare Old High German hring circle


showing vigorous and profuse growth: rank weeds
highly offensive or disagreeable, esp in smell or taste
(prenominal) complete or absolute; utter: a rank outsider
coarse or vulgar; gross: his language was rank
Derived Forms
rankly, adverb
rankness, noun
Word Origin
Old English ranc straight, noble; related to Old Norse rakkr upright, Dutch, Swedish rank tall and thin, weak


(ræŋk). J(oseph) Arthur, 1st Baron. 1888–1972, British industrialist and film executive, whose companies dominated the British film industry in the 1940s and 1950s
(German) (raŋk). Otto (ˈɔto). 1884–1939, Austrian psychoanalyst, noted for his theory that the trauma of birth may be reflected in certain forms of mental illness
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 rankness



early 14c., "row, line series;" c.1400, a row of an army, from Old French renc, ranc "row, line" (Modern French rang), from Frankish *hring or some other Germanic source (cf. Old High German hring "circle, ring"), from Proto-Germanic *khrengaz "circle, ring" (see ring (n.1)).

Meaning "a social division, class of persons" is from early 15c. Meaning "high station in society" is from early 15c. Meaning "a relative position" is from c.1600.


Old English ranc "proud, overbearing, showy," from Proto-Germanic *rankaz (cf. Danish rank "right, upright," German rank "slender," Old Norse rakkr "straight, erect"), perhaps from PIE *reg- "to stretch, straighten" (see right (adj.)). In reference to plant growth, "vigorous, luxuriant, abundant, copious" it is recorded from c.1300. Related: Rankly; rankness.

Sense evolved in Middle English to "large and coarse" (c.1300), then, via notion of "excessive and unpleasant," to "corrupt, loathsome, foul" (mid-14c.), perhaps from influence of Middle French rance "rancid." In 17c. also "lewd, lustful."

Much used 16c. as a pejorative intensive (cf. rank folly). This is possibly the source of the verb meaning "to reveal another's guilt" (1929, underworld slang), and that of "to harass, abuse," 1934, U.S. black dialect, though this also may be from the role of the activity in establishing social hierarchy (from rank (n.)).


1570s, "arrange in lines;" 1590s, "put in order, classify; assign a rank to," from rank (n.). Related: Ranked; ranking.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for rankness



Inferior; contemptible


  1. To say or do something that reveals another's guilt: She ranked him by busting out with that new fur so soon after the robbery (1920s+ Underworld)
  2. To harass; annoy; kid, needle: the fine, foul art of ''ranking.'' Light insults were his way of making friends (1934+)

Related Terms

pull rank

[second sense used by 1960s teenagers in the preferred variant rank out, both as a verb phrase and a noun phrase]

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 rankness


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