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verb (used without object), ran·kled, ran·kling.
  1. (of unpleasant feelings, experiences, etc.) to continue to cause keen irritation or bitter resentment within the mind; fester; be painful.
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verb (used with object), ran·kled, ran·kling.
  1. to cause keen irritation or bitter resentment in: His colleague's harsh criticism rankled him for days.
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Origin of rankle

1250–1300; Middle English ranclen < Middle French rancler, Old French raoncler, variant of draoncler to fester, derivative of draoncle a sore < Late Latin dracunculus small serpent, diminutive of Latin dracō serpent; see dragon, carbuncle
Related formsran·kling·ly, adverbun·ran·kled, adjective


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Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Related Words


Examples from the Web for rankle

Contemporary Examples

Historical Examples

  • The blade is poisoned, dear, and the wound will rankle for a lifetime.'

    Despair's Last Journey

    David Christie Murray

  • Take a look at it now, if you will, for hereafter we'll let it bide and rankle as it must.

  • Sir Cæsar, too, had (all unwittingly) planted an arrow and left it to rankle.

    Major Vigoureux

    A. T. Quiller-Couch

  • Do you suppose she left that poison to rankle in the tender soul of her darling?

    Over the Teacups

    Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

  • There is no sting to rankle, now that hope—hope for my boy—has gone.

    Shining Ferry

    Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch

British Dictionary definitions for rankle


  1. (intr) to cause severe and continuous irritation, anger, or bitterness; festerhis failure to win still rankles
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Word Origin

C14 ranclen, from Old French draoncler to fester, from draoncle ulcer, from Latin dracunculus small serpent, from dracō serpent; see dragon
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 rankle


c.1300, "to fester," from Old French rancler, earlier raoncler, draoncler "to suppurate, run," from draoncle "abscess, festering sore," from Medieval Latin dracunculus, literally "little dragon," diminutive of Latin draco "serpent, dragon" (see dragon). The notion is of an ulcer caused by a snake's bite. Meaning "cause to fester" is from c.1400. Related: Rankled; rankling.

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Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper