ravishing

[ rav-i-shing ]
/ ˈræv ɪ ʃɪŋ /

adjective

extremely beautiful or attractive; enchanting; entrancing.

QUIZZES

CAN YOU GUESS THESE WORDS FROM AROUND THE US?

American English is not always as it appears to be ... get to know regional words in this quiz!
Question 1 of 10
A bet is synonymous with a wager, but what does it mean in New York?

Origin of ravishing

First recorded in 1300–50; Middle English; see origin at ravish, -ing1

OTHER WORDS FROM ravishing

rav·ish·ing·ly, adverb

Words nearby ravishing

Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2020

ABOUT THIS WORD

What else does ravishing mean?

Content warning: this article contains sexual language.

Someone, usually a woman, called ravishing is “stunningly beautiful.”

To ravish someone historically meant to “plunder” or “violently seize and rape a woman,” but in contemporary speech it refers to wanting passionate, consensual intercourse with a person.

Where does ravishing come from?

Ravishing begins with the Latin rapere, “to seize or carry off by force.” Via French, this verb ultimately formed such English words as ravenous, rape, rapid, ravage, and ravish.

Ravish is recorded in the early 1300s. While it could more generally mean “rob” or “plunder,” ravish was specifically used of violently “dragging a woman away,” often involving rape.

The “rape” and “plunder” ravish now sounds more obsolete, and the sense of the verb has softened. If you say you want to ravish someone today, it usually means you really want to have passionate, consensual sex with them.

Ravish also survives in ravishing, as in you look ravishing. This sense is found in the 1400s, originally of something that produced a strong emotion in a person (i.e., something that has really seized them). That’s how ravishing gets used for something “enchanting” or “beautiful.”

How is ravishing used in real life?

In contemporary English, ravishing is primarily used to compliment women as captivating in their looks and, sometimes, personality. One may especially hear the word, say, during the Academy Awards as women take to the red carpet looking ravishing in their gowns. Ravishing may also be used of works of art, like music or paintings.

Contrary to its rape-related origins, to be ravished in contemporary English can be something people like.

More examples of ravishing:

“Stunning! Teri Hatcher was ravishing in a red dress on Friday Afternoon. The 53-year-old brunette beauty was on a panel to discuss her TV show Lois & Clark at the Comic-Con panel in New York City.”
—Heidi Parker, Daily Mail (caption), October 2018

Note

This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.

Example sentences from the Web for ravishing

British Dictionary definitions for ravishing

ravishing
/ (ˈrævɪʃɪŋ) /

adjective

delightful; lovely; entrancing

Derived forms of ravishing

ravishingly, adverb
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