Merriam-Webster Word of the Day: Rabble

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

What It Means

Rabble is used to refer to a large group of loud people who could become violent (that is, a mob), or, usually in the phrase the rabble, to refer to the great mass of regular people as contrasted with the elite. In the latter use, the word is typically applied in a humorous or exaggerated way to suggest the attitudes of the powerful and wealthy.

// An angry rabble rushed the stage when the band cut their performance short.

// The magazine’s apparent aim is to induce envy with peeks into the beautiful homes of celebrities who live far away from the rabble.

RABBLE in Context

“In March 2020, a rabble of angry homeowners attended a court hearing in DeKalb County, Georgia…” — Rebecca Burns, The New Republic, 23 June 2021

Did You Know?

Rabble today is perhaps most familiar in the term rabble-rouser (that’s someone who stirs up the masses), but that 19th century coinage was built on a Middle English foundation: for hundreds of years, rabble has referred to various hard-to-manage groups, be they packs of animals or angry mobs. (The word’s source, Middle English rabel, means “pack of animals.”) In modern use, rabbles are mostly human. Often the word is a synonym of mob, referring as that word does to a disorderly and potentially violent sort of crowd, but it’s also used sardonically, especially in the phrase “the rabble,” to refer to regular folks—that is, the coarse commoners looked down upon by the elite.

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