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First attested 1830, back-formation from ramshackled, from ransackled, past participle of ransackle (to ransack), frequentative of Middle English ransaken (to pillage).


  • enPR: rămʹshăk'əl, IPA(key): /ˈɹæmˌʃæk.əl/
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ramshackle (comparative more ramshackle, superlative most ramshackle)

  1. In disrepair or disorder; poorly maintained; lacking upkeep, usually of buildings or vehicles.
    Synonyms: see Thesaurus:ramshackle
    They stayed in a ramshackle cabin on the beach.
    He entered the ramshackle bus, and was driven a long distance through very sandy streets to the hotel on the St. Lawrence.
    • 1854, Arthur Pendennis [pseudonym; William Makepeace Thackeray], The Newcomes: Memoirs of a Most Respectable Family, volume (please specify |volume=I or II), London: Bradbury and Evans, [], OCLC 809623158:
      There came [] my lord the cardinal, in his ramshackle coach.
    • 1914, David Lloyd George
      A ramshackle old empire. (of Austria-Hungary).
    • 2012 September 7, Dominic Fifield, “England start World Cup campaign with five-goal romp against Moldova”, in The Guardian[1]:
      So ramshackle was the locals' attempt at defence that, with energetic wingers pouring into the space behind panicked full-backs and centre-halves dizzied by England's movement, it was cruel to behold at times. The contest did not extend beyond the half-hour mark.
  2. Badly or carelessly organized.
    • 2022 October 5, David Wallace-Wells, “Progressives Should Rally Around a Clean Energy Construction Boom”, in The New York Times[2]:
      The alliance that pushed the Inflation Reduction Act into law in August was always a somewhat fragile and ramshackle one: Green New Dealers and the coal-state senator Joe Manchin, carbon-capture geeks and environmental justice warriors, all herded together in the sort of big-tent play you get with a 50-50 Senate and one party functionally indifferent on climate.



ramshackle (third-person singular simple present ramshackles, present participle ramshackling, simple past and past participle ramshackled)

  1. (obsolete, transitive) To ransack.