• rank •
Pronunciation: rængk • Hear it!
Part of Speech: Adjective
Meaning: 1. Offensive, excessive in odor or flavor, as 'rank underwear'. 2. (Pejorative) Absolute, complete, flagrant, as 'rank amateur'. 3. Profuse, thick, as 'rank grass'. 4. Rich, highly fertile, as 'rank soil'.
Notes: English has at least two words spelled rank, the one a noun and verb, the other, like today's Good Word, an adjective. The adjective is accompanied by a noun, rankness, and an adverb, rankly.
In Play: See if you can sort out all the senses of today's word in this sentence: "We have rank grass growing in our rank though rank soil." The two most popular meanings are the first two above: "He is a rank imbecile to think rank gym clothing turns women on."
Word History: In Old English today's Good Word was ranc "proud, overbearing, showy", from Proto-Germanic rankaz, also the source of Danish rank "right, upright", Dutch rank "slim, slender", German rank "slender". It seems to have originated in the PIE root reg- "right, correct" (also found in regular and regimen) with a Fickle N thrown in. The meaning shifted in Middle English to "large, coarse, complete", then on to the notion of "excessive and unpleasant" and, finally, to "corrupt, loathsome, foul", perhaps influenced by rancid. The reference to plant growth, "vigorous, luxuriant, abundant, copious" emerged from the senses of "large" and "excessive" at the beginning of the 14th century.