verb (used without object), ran·kled, ran·kling.

(of unpleasant feelings, experiences, etc.) to continue to cause keen irritation or bitter resentment within the mind; fester; be painful.

verb (used with object), ran·kled, ran·kling.

to cause keen irritation or bitter resentment in: His colleague's harsh criticism rankled him for days.

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

Synonyms for rankle

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

Examples from the Web for rankled

Contemporary Examples of rankled

  • The cynics among us will be rankled at the description of a book as “inspiring,” but Massie is the genuine article.

    The Daily Beast logo
    This Week’s Hot Reads: May 23, 2012

    Nicholas Mancusi, Malcolm Jones, Lucas Wittmann

    May 23, 2012

  • If it rankled, it was because it forced the audience to take a long look at their own imperfections, their own broken families.

    The Daily Beast logo
    The Big Bang of Reality TV

    Jace Lacob

    April 17, 2011

  • Her dogged willingness to keep the case in the spotlight has rankled authorities—which has only strengthened her resolve.

  • The promise so rankled the Taliban they issued a statement insisting that Pakistan should reject all foreign aid.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Terrorists Exploit a Disaster

    Ria Misra

    August 13, 2010

  • The family, and Jeb Bush in particular, manages to reconcile many of the tensions and contradictions that have rankled the party.

    The Daily Beast logo
    Bush-Cheney 2012?

    Reihan Salam

    May 19, 2009

Historical Examples of rankled

  • The thing that rankled and filled him with a sense of failure was Max Wilson's attitude.


    Mary Roberts Rinehart

  • After that more than ever rankled the memory of that first morning.

  • That same book,—how it rankled, like a barbed arrow, in his side!

    Tony Butler

    Charles James Lever

  • The thought that a man whom he had befriended was opposing him rankled deeply.

    Rodney, the Ranger

    John V. Lane

  • She could not apologise to him after hearing the accusation which rankled in his bosom.

    Kept in the Dark

    Anthony Trollope

British Dictionary definitions for rankled



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

Word Origin for rankle

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 rankled



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.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper