Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Ramshackle

The Merriam-Webster Word of the Day is ramshackle. Read on for what it means, how it’s used, and more.

What It Means

Ramshackle means “in a very bad condition and needing to be repaired” or “carelessly or loosely constructed.”

// The company was contracted to demolish the ramshackle apartments.

// The reviewer of the book said it had a ramshackle plot that was confusing and unbelievable.


“Near the Otara town centre in South Auckland, there’s a large block of land overgrown with trees and brush and dotted with ramshackle houses and farm sheds.” — Tony Wall, The Press(Christchurch, New Zealand), 20 Apr. 2022

Did You Know?

Ramshackle has nothing to do with rams, nor the act of being rammed, nor shackles. The word is an alteration of ransackled, an obsolete form of the verb ransack, meaning “to search through or plunder.” (Ransack comes from Old Norse words meaning “house” and “seek.”) A home that has been ransacked has had its contents thrown into disarray, and that image may be what inspired people to start using ramshacklein the first half of the 19th century to describe something that is poorly constructed or in a state of near collapse. Ramshackle in modern use can also be figurative, as in “a ramshackle excuse for the error.”

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