Word Origin & History
"tear apart," c.1477, probably of North Sea Gmc. origin (cf. Flem. rippen "strip off roughly," Frisian rippe "to tear, rip") or else from a Scand. source (cf. Swed. reppa, Dan. rippe "to tear, rip"). In either case, probably imitative of the sound of cloth ripping. Meaning "to move with slashing force"
(1798) is the sense in let her rip, Amer.Eng. colloquial phrase attested from 1853. The noun is attested from 1711; rip cord (1909) originally was in ballooning. The verbal phrase rip off "to steal or rob," is first recorded c.1967 in black slang, but rip was prison slang for "to steal" since 1904, and was also used in this sense in 12c. Rip-off (n.) is attested from 1970. Jack the Ripper contains a pun on ripper in sense of "tool for ripping" old slates, etc. (1793) and the slang meaning "a ripping fellow" (1838), from ripping "excellent, splendid" (1826).
"rough water," 1775, perhaps a special use of rip
(v.). Originally of seas; application to rivers is from 1857. Rip-tide is attested from 1862.
"thing of little value," 1815, earlier "inferior or worn-out horse" (1778), perhaps altered from slang rep (1747) "man of loose character," which is itself perhaps short for reprobate (q.v.).