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From Middle English ronage, from Old French arrumage (compare French arrimage), from arrumer (to arrange the cargo in the hold) (compare French arrimer and Spanish arrumar).


  • (UK, US) IPA(key): /ˈɹʌm.ɪd͡ʒ/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ʌmɪd͡ʒ


rummage (third-person singular simple present rummages, present participle rummaging, simple past and past participle rummaged)

  1. (transitive, nautical) To arrange (cargo, goods, etc.) in the hold of a ship; to move or rearrange such goods.
  2. (transitive, nautical) To search a vessel for smuggled goods.
    After the long voyage, the customs officers rummaged the ship.
  3. (transitive) To search something thoroughly and with disregard for the way in which things were arranged.
    She rummaged her purse in search of the keys.
    The burglars rummaged the entire house for cash and jewellery.
    • 1655, James Howell, “To the Rt. Hon. the Lord Mohun”, in Epistolæ Ho-Elianæ. Familiar Letters Domestic and Forren. [], 3rd edition, volume (please specify the page), London: [] Humphrey Mos[e]ley, [], →OCLC:
      He [] searcheth his pockets, and taketh his keys, and so rummageth all his closets and trunks.
    • 1866, Matthew Arnold, The Study of Celtic Literature:
      What schoolboy of us has not rummaged his Greek dictionary in vain for a satisfactory account!
    • 2013 August 10, Lexington, “Keeping the mighty honest”, in The Economist, volume 408, number 8848:
      British journalists shun complete respectability, feeling a duty to be ready to savage the mighty, or rummage through their bins. Elsewhere in Europe, government contracts and subsidies ensure that press barons will only defy the mighty so far.
    1. (intransitive) To hastily search for something in a confined space and among many items by carelessly turning things over or pushing things aside.
      She rummaged in the drawers trying to find the missing sock.
      • 1913, Joseph C[rosby] Lincoln, chapter VIII, in Mr. Pratt’s Patients, New York, N.Y., London: D[aniel] Appleton and Company, →OCLC:
        Philander went into the next room [] and came back with a salt mackerel that dripped brine like a rainstorm. Then he put the coffee pot on the stove and rummaged out a loaf of dry bread and some hardtack.



rummage (countable and uncountable, plural rummages)

  1. A thorough search, usually resulting in disorder.
    Have a rummage through the attic and see if you can find anything worth selling.
    • 1753 May 24, Horace Walpole, letter to the Hon. H. S. Conway:
      He has made such a general rummage and reform in the office of matrimony.
  2. (obsolete) Commotion; disturbance.
  3. A disorganized collection of miscellaneous objects; a jumble.
  4. (nautical) A place or room for the stowage of cargo in a ship.
  5. (nautical) The act of stowing cargo; the pulling and moving about of packages incident to close stowage.
    Synonym: (obsolete) romage

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