senior or superior in rank, position, etc.: a ranking diplomat.
prominent or highly regarded: a ranking authority on Soviet affairs.
occupying a specific rank, position, etc. (often used in combination): a low-ranking executive.


an act or instance of indicating relative standing.
a list showing such standing.

Origin of ranking

First recorded in 1860–65; rank1 + -ing2, -ing1




a number of persons forming a separate class in a social hierarchy or in any graded body.
a social or official position or standing, as in the armed forces: the rank of captain.
high position or station in the social or some similar scale: a woman of rank.
a class in any scale of comparison.
relative position or standing: a writer of the first rank.
a row, line, or series of things or persons: orchestra players arranged in ranks.
  1. the members of an armed service apart from its officers; enlisted personnel.
  2. military enlisted personnel as a group.
Usually ranks. the general body of any party, society, or organization apart from the officers or leaders.
orderly arrangement; array.
a line of persons, especially soldiers, standing abreast in close-order formation (distinguished from file).
British. a place or station occupied by vehicles available for hire; stand: a taxi rank.
Chess. one of the horizontal lines of squares on a chessboard.
a set of organ pipes of the same kind and tonal color.
Also called determinant rank. Mathematics. the order of the nonzero determinant of greatest order that can be selected from a given matrix by the elimination of rows and columns.
Mining. the classification of coal according to hardness, from lignite to anthracite.

verb (used with object)

to arrange in ranks or in regular formation: The men were ranked according to height. He ranked the chess pieces on the board.
to assign to a particular position, station, class, etc.: She was ranked among the most admired citizens.
to outrank: The colonel ranks all other officers in the squadron.
Slang. to insult; criticize.

verb (used without object)

to form a rank or ranks.
to take up or occupy a place in a particular rank, class, etc.: to rank well ahead of the other students.
to have rank or standing.
to be the senior in rank: The colonel ranks at this camp.
Slang. to complain.


    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

1560–70; < French ranc (noun, obsolete), Old French renc, ranc, rang row, line < Germanic, akin to ring1
Related formsrank·less, adjectiveun·ranked, adjective

Synonyms for rank

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ranking

Contemporary Examples of ranking

Historical Examples of ranking

  • Linn was ranking officer, although there was little discipline.

    Chronicles of Border Warfare

    Alexander Scott Withers

  • I do not dream for a moment of ranking myself in the class of those who wish to rule.

  • In 1843 he graduated, ranking twenty-first in a class of thirty-nine.

    Hidden Treasures

    Harry A. Lewis

  • And, since he was the ranking Exec, he was expected to give some sort of answer.

    But, I Don't Think

    Gordon Randall Garrett

  • The officer taking the next place to a general, ranking with vice-admiral.

    The Sailor's Word-Book

    William Henry Smyth

British Dictionary definitions for ranking



mainly US and Canadian prominent; high ranking
Caribbean slang possessed of style; fashionable; exciting


a position on a scale; ratinga ranking in a tennis tournament



(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




a position, esp an official one, within a social organization, esp the armed forcesthe 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
British a place where taxis wait to be hired
a line of soldiers drawn up abreast of each otherCompare file 1 (def. 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
break ranks military 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


(tr) to arrange (people or things) in rows or lines; range
to accord or be accorded a specific position in an organization, society, or group
(tr) to array (a set of objects) as a sequence, esp in terms of the natural arithmetic ordering of some measure of the elementsto rank students by their test scores
(intr) to be important; ratemoney ranks low in her order of priorities
mainly US to take precedence or surpass in rankthe colonel ranks at this camp

Word Origin for rank

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




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 Formsrankly, adverbrankness, noun

Word Origin for rank

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



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

Idioms and Phrases with ranking


In addition to the idiom beginning with rank

  • rank and file

also see:

  • break ranks
  • close ranks
  • pull rank
  • rise through the ranks
The American Heritage® Idioms Dictionary Copyright © 2002, 2001, 1995 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company.