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 formsram·shack·le·ness, noun

Synonyms for ramshackle

tumbledown, dilapidated, derelict, flimsy.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ramshackle

Contemporary Examples of ramshackle

Historical Examples of ramshackle

  • His ramshackle dwelling was an eighth of a mile from the Gould-Hamilton place.


    Joseph C. Lincoln

  • There was one idle and worthless journeyman in the ramshackle office, and one only.

    Despair's Last Journey

    David Christie Murray

  • Paul felt as if the ramshackle building had been out at sea.

    Despair's Last Journey

    David Christie Murray

  • It was a ramshackle affair of four streets and sixteen saloons.

    Blazed Trail Stories

    Stewart Edward White

  • I looked round, but the ramshackle cart was hidden by the turn of the road.

    The Wonder

    J. D. Beresford

British Dictionary definitions for ramshackle



(esp of buildings) badly constructed or maintained; rickety, shaky, or derelict

Word Origin for ramshackle

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

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