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From Middle English ransaken, from Old Norse rannsaka, from rann (house) + saka (search); probably influenced by sack.



ransack (third-person singular simple present ransacks, present participle ransacking, simple past and past participle ransacked)

  1. (transitive) To loot or pillage. See also sack.
  2. (transitive) To make a vigorous and thorough search of (a place, person) with a view to stealing something, especially when leaving behind a state of disarray.
    to ransack a house for valuables
    • (Can we date this quote by Robert South and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      to ransack every corner of their [] hearts
  3. (archaic) To examine carefully; to investigate.
    • 1485, Sir Thomas Malory, chapter xiij, in Le Morte Darthur, book XIII:
      Thenne came there an olde monke whiche somtyme had ben a knyghte & behelde syre Melyas / And anone he ransakyd hym / & thenne he saide vnto syr Galahad I shal hele hym of this woūde by the grace of god within the terme of seuen wekes
  4. To violate; to ravish; to deflower.
    • (Can we date this quote by Edmund Spenser and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      Rich spoil of ransacked chastity.



ransack (plural ransacks)

  1. Eager search.
    • 1861, The Eclectic Magazine of Foreign Literature, Science, and Art
      Perhaps this stone also will turn up in the ransack of the sultan's treasury.