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

  1. (transitive or intransitive) To cause irritation or deep bitterness.
    Synonyms: embitter, irritate
    • 1890, Alfred Thayer Mahan, chapter IX, in The Influence of Sea Power upon History:
      [] 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. []
    • 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, [1]
      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.
    • 2022 June 14, John McWhorter, “Republicans Want to ‘Harden’ Schools. That’s an Awful Euphemism.”, in The New York Times[2], ISSN 0362-4331:
      What most rankles me about the term is how casually it is being applied to schools—temples of learning—and especially to children.
  2. (intransitive) To fester.
    a splinter rankles in the flesh



rankle (plural rankles)

  1. (rare) A festering, embittering object or condition, either mental, or a physical sore or ulcer.[1]
    • 1795, James Harris, 1st Earl of Malmesbury, Diaries and Correspondence of James Harris, First Earl of Malmesbury., R. Bentley, published 1844, page 220:
      To this the Prince appeared to acquiesce; but I saw it did not please, and left a rankle in his mind.


  1. ^ Murray, J.A.H. The Compact Edition of the Oxford English Dictionary (2 vols). Publisher: Oxford University Press. 1971. →ISBN