verb (used with object), rum·maged, rum·mag·ing.

to search thoroughly or actively through (a place, receptacle, etc.), especially by moving around, turning over, or looking through contents.
to find, bring, or fetch by searching (often followed by out or up).

verb (used without object), rum·maged, rum·mag·ing.

to search actively, as in a place or receptacle or within oneself: She rummaged in her mind for the forgotten name.


miscellaneous articles; odds and ends.
a rummaging search.

Origin of rummage

1520–30; aphetic alteration of Middle French arrumage, equivalent to arrum(er) to stow goods in the hold of a ship (< ?) + -age -age
Related formsrum·mag·er, nounun·rum·maged, adjective Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for rummage

Contemporary Examples of rummage

Historical Examples of rummage

  • I want to rummage over my thoughts and see whether some of them are to be abandoned or not.'

  • After the action we went to rummage a sort of camp, which they had left behind them.

    The Jest Book

    Mark Lemon

  • So I had to rummage through the refrigerator and use my own judgment.

    The Wall Between

    Sara Ware Bassett

  • She had to rummage her memory awhile to discover just what it was.

    The Faith Doctor

    Edward Eggleston

  • Did I ever walk into your house to pry and rummage, and tell you that your things were no use?

    A Little Country Girl

    Susan Coolidge

British Dictionary definitions for rummage



(when intr , often foll by through) to search (through) while looking for something, often causing disorder or confusion


an act of rummaging
a jumble of articles
obsolete confusion or bustle
Derived Formsrummager, noun

Word Origin for rummage

C14 (in the sense: to pack a cargo): from Old French arrumage, from arrumer to stow in a ship's hold, probably of Germanic origin
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 rummage

1540s, "arrange (cargo) in a ship," from rummage (n.), 1520s, "act of arranging cargo in a ship," a shortening of Middle French arrumage "arrangement of cargo," from arrumer "to stow goods in the hold of a ship," from a- "to" + rumer, probably from Germanic (cf. Old Norse rum "compartment in a ship," Old High German rum "space," Old English rum; see room (n.)). Or else from English room (n.) + -age.

Meaning "to search closely (the hold of a ship), especially by moving things about" first recorded 1610s. Related: Rummaged; rummaging. Rummage sale (1803) originally was a sale at docks of unclaimed goods.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper