[ rangk ]
/ ræŋk /
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verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
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Idioms about rank

    break ranks,
    1. to leave an assigned position in a military formation.
    2. to disagree with, defect from, or refuse to support one's colleagues, party, or the like.
    pull rank (on), to make use of one's superior rank to gain an advantage over (someone).Also pull one's rank (on).

Origin of rank

First recorded in 1560–70; from French ranc (noun, obsolete), Old French renc, ranc, rang “row, line,” from Germanic, akin to ring1


rankless, adjectiveun·ranked, adjective

Other definitions for rank (2 of 3)

[ rangk ]
/ ræŋk /

adjective, rank·er, rank·est.

Origin of rank

First recorded before 1000; Middle English; Old English ranc “bold, proud, mature, showy”; cognate with Old Norse rakkr “slender, straight, bold”; the original Germanic sense was probably “upright”; the development of the meanings in English is uncertain

synonym study for rank

6. See flagrant.


rankish, adjectiverankly, adverbrankness, noun

Other definitions for rank (3 of 3)

[ rahngk ]
/ rɑŋk /

Ot·to [awt-oh], /ˈɔt oʊ/, 1884–1939, Austrian psychoanalyst.
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does rank mean?

Rank most commonly refers to the position or status that has been assigned to someone or something to distinguish it from others in a group.

In certain organizations, especially the military, rank refers to someone’s official position in a hierarchy—an organizational structure in which people have increasing levels of authority based on their rank. For example, in the military, the lowest rank may be private, and the highest rank may be general.

The word can also be used to refer to less official positions or statuses (ones that have not been assigned but exist based on other factors), such as a person’s status within society. Rank can also be used collectively to refer to all of the people within a group with the same status.

As a verb, rank most commonly means to assign something a status or position to distinguish it from others in a group, as in Please rank the top five candidates in order from best to worst. It can also mean to have a particular rank or position, as in She ranks above all the other executives.

The verb rank is sometimes used in overlapping ways with the verb rate, but rate most commonly means to assign something a value or rating independently of other things, whereas rank typically means to determine the position of something compared to other things.

Unrelatedly, rank can also be used as an adjective meaning offensively strong, especially in smell or taste, as in There’s a rank odor coming from the trash can. 

Rank is a very common word and has many other specific meanings as a noun, verb, and adjective.

Where does rank come from?

The first records of the word rank as an adjective come from before 1000. It comes from the Old English ranc, meaning “bold, proud, mature, showy.” The noun and verb senses of rank came later and have a different origin—the Old French ranc, meaning “row” or “line.”

The word rank can refer to a group of soldiers standing in a formation of rows. To break ranks is to leave one’s position in this formation, or, in a figurative sense, to disagree with or refuse to support one’s fellow members.

Used by itself, the plural form ranks refers collectively to the general members of an organization apart from its officers or leaders. The term rank and file refers to the same thing.

Most of the time, rank indicates authority or power. Generally, the higher your rank, the more power you have in a society or chain of command. To pull rank is to use your authority to make others comply.

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What are some other forms related to rank?

  • ranked (past tense verb, adjective)
  • ranking (continuous tense verb, noun, adjective)

What are some synonyms for rank?

What are some words that share a root or word element with rank


What are some words that often get used in discussing rank?


What are some words rank may be commonly confused with?


How is rank used in real life?

Rank is a very common word that can be used in many different contexts. Most of its uses deal with the position of someone or something in relation to others.



Try using rank!

Is rank used correctly in the following sentence?

Many students work to improve their class rank based on their grades, but extracurricular activities should also be a priority.

How to use rank in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for rank (1 of 3)

/ (ræŋk) /


Word Origin for rank

C16: from Old French ranc row, rank, of Germanic origin; compare Old High German hring circle

British Dictionary definitions for rank (2 of 3)

/ (ræŋk) /

showing vigorous and profuse growthrank weeds
highly offensive or disagreeable, esp in smell or taste
(prenominal) complete or absolute; uttera rank outsider
coarse or vulgar; grosshis language was rank

Derived forms of rank

rankly, adverbrankness, noun

Word Origin for rank

Old English ranc straight, noble; related to Old Norse rakkr upright, Dutch, Swedish rank tall and thin, weak

British Dictionary definitions for rank (3 of 3)


(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

Other Idioms and Phrases with rank


The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.