Printable Version
Pronunciation: ræm-bêngk-shês Hear it!

Part of Speech: Adjective

Meaning: Noisily overactive, aggressive, outspoken, rip-roarious.

Notes: This word is a facetious concoction that managed to stick to the language like oatmeal to the ribs. It is currently an integral part of English as evidenced by its derivational kin such as the adverb rambunctiously and the noun rambunctiousness.

In Play: Kids are most often accused of rambunctiousness, especially by baby-sitters: "Sorry about the goldfish bowl, Mrs. McGillicutty; the kids were a little rambunctious tonight." However, adults have problems with it, too: "Frank became a bit rambunctious on the way home from the party last night and I had to handcuff him to the car door."

Word History: At the bottom of this word lies robust. Here is how it happened to become rambunctious. First, robust came from the same root that gave English red and ruby. It also emerged in Latin as robus "red oak", and this word ended up in English as robust. However, robust sounds a little weak for its definition, so someone kicked it up a notch or two to robustious in the 1540s. Next, some ancient mariner, no doubt, decided that a drop of rum would strengthen it even more, so converted it to rumbustious in the 1780s. Now, rams are very robust animals, so the Temperance ladies (my guess would be) removed the rum from this word when they were removing it from everywhere else, replacing it with ram, giving us this word, rambunctious by the 1850s. I've done my share; I will let you figure why the ST became NCT.

Dr. Goodword,

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