[ roo-in ]
/ ˈru ɪn /
Save This Word!
See synonyms for: ruin / ruined / ruining / ruins on Thesaurus.com

verb (used with object)
verb (used without object)
to fall into decay; fall to pieces.
to come to downfall or destruction.
Do you know the difference between everyday US and UK terminology? Test yourself with this quiz on words that differ across the Atlantic.
Question 1 of 7
In the UK, COTTON CANDY is more commonly known as…

Origin of ruin

First recorded in 1325–75; Middle English noun rueyne, ruyen, from Middle French ruwine, from Latin ruīna “headlong rush, fall, collapse,” equivalent to ruere “to fall” + -īna feminine singular of suffix -īnus; ; verb ultimately derivative of the noun;see -ine2

synonym study for ruin

3. Ruin, destruction, havoc imply irrevocable and often widespread damage. Destruction may be on a large or small scale ( destruction of tissue, of enemy vessels ); it emphasizes particularly the act of destroying, while ruin and havoc emphasize the resultant state. Ruin, from the verb meaning to fall to pieces, suggests a state of decay or disintegration (or an object in that state) that is apt to be more the result of the natural processes of time and change than of sudden violent activity from without: The house has fallen to ruins. Only in its figurative application is it apt to suggest the result of destruction from without: the ruin of her hopes. Havoc, originally a cry that served as the signal for pillaging, has changed its reference from that of spoliation to devastation, being used particularly of the destruction following in the wake of natural calamities: the havoc wrought by flood and pestilence. Today it is used figuratively to refer to the destruction of hopes and plans: This sudden turn of events played havoc with her carefully laid designs. 10. See spoil.


Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2023


What does ruin mean?

Ruin is most commonly used as a verb meaning to destroy or spoil.

As a noun, ruin means the remains of a destroyed or decayed place, especially a half-standing building or city. It is most commonly used in the plural, as in ancient ruins. 

Example: I feel like the once-quiet atmosphere of the ancient ruins has been ruined by the presence of too many tourists and commercial vendors.

Where does ruin come from?

The first records of ruin in English come from around the 1300s. Ruin comes from the Latin ruīna, meaning “headlong rush, fall, or collapse.” Ruīna is equivalent to the Latin verb ru(ere), ”to fall.”

The ruins of a structure or town are what remains of it after it has fallen, collapsed, been destroyed, or been left unmaintained for a long time. The word is most often used in the context of ancient ruins like those in Greece and Rome. However, ruin can also be applied to more recently abandoned structures or towns, such as a derelict factory. It can also be applied in a metaphorical way, as in My life will be a ruin if I lose you. 

As a verb, ruin can refer to the destruction of physical things, as in The earthquake ruined half the city. But it is also commonly used to refer to spoiling nonphysical things, as in If you two keep arguing, you’re going to ruin the birthday party! More specifically, it can mean “to bankrupt a person or wreck their finances,” as in A lot of people were ruined when the market crashed.  

Ruin is often used in the phrase rack and ruin. Both words actually mean about the same thing—rack means “destruction,” and is a variant of the word wrack.

Did you know ... ?

What are some other forms related to ruin?

  • ruins (plural)
  • ruined (adjective)
  • half-ruined (adjective)
  • ruinable (adjective)
  • nonruinable (adjective)
  • ruiner (noun)

What are some synonyms for ruin?

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


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


How is ruin used in real life?

As a verb, ruin is commonly used to refer to the destruction of both physical and abstract things. As a noun, it’s most often used in the plural to refer to the remains of ancient civilizations.



Try using ruin!

Is ruin used correctly in the following sentence?

Unfortunately, this storm has ruined our plans to visit the ruins.

How to use ruin in a sentence

British Dictionary definitions for ruin

/ (ˈruːɪn) /


Derived forms of ruin

ruinable, adjectiveruiner, noun

Word Origin for ruin

C14: from Old French ruine, from Latin ruīna a falling down, from ruere to fall violently
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 ruin


see rack and ruin.

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