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From Middle English ranklen, ranclen, from Old French rancler, räoncler, draoncler (to ulcerate, to form a boil), from Old French draoncle (a boil), from Latin dracunculus (little serpent), diminutive of Latin dracō (serpent, dragon).



rankle (plural rankles)

  1. A festering, embittering object or condition — either mental, or a physical sore or ulcer (rare)[1]


rankle (third-person singular simple present rankles, present participle rankling, simple past and past participle rankled)

  1. (ambitransitive) To cause irritation or deep bitterness.
    • 1894, Ivan Dexter, Talmud: A Strange Narrative of Central Australia, published in serial form in Port Adelaide News and Lefevre's Peninsula Advertiser (SA), Chapter XX, [2]
      I stood trembling with agony for the spear was rankling in the wound.
    • 2014, Emily Dalton, A Baby for Lord Roderick
      Liam hadn't meant for that last part to slip out. Allie might think it pretty pathetic that he'd remembered that comment from the first night they met, but it had rankled him then and, to some degree, it rankled him now.
  2. (intransitive) To fester.
    a splinter rankles in the flesh
    • Rowe
      a malady that burns and rankles inward
    • Burke
      This would have left a rankling wound in the hearts of the people.
    • 1855, Robert Browning, “Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came”, XXVI:
      Now blotches rankling, coloured gay and grim, / Now patches where some leanness of the soil's / Broke into moss or substances like boils;


  • 1590Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book I, Canto X
    But yet the cause and root of all his ill,
    Inward corruption and infected sin,
    Not purg'd nor heald, behind remained still,
    And festring sore did rankle yet within,
  • 1850Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter, chapter XIV
    You are beside him, sleeping and waking. You search his thoughts. You burrow and rankle in his heart!
  • 1890Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Influence of Sea Power upon History, chapter IX
    The close proximity of the two countries, the relative positions of their ports, made the naval situation particularly strong; and the alliance which was dictated by sound policy, by family ties, and by just fear of England's sea power, was further assured to France by recent and still existing injuries that must continue to rankle with Spain. Gibraltar, Minorca, and Florida were still in the hands of England; no Spaniard could be easy till this reproach was wiped out.




  1. ^ Murray, J.A.H. The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (2 vols). Publisher: Oxford University Press. 1971. ISBN 978-0198611172
  2. ^ James Howard Harris Earl of Malmesbury. Diaries and Correspondence of James Harris, First Earl of Malmesbury. [1] publisher=R. Bentley 1844