Printable Version
Pronunciation: -vij Hear it!

Part of Speech: Verb, Noun

Meaning: To devastate, wreak havoc, cause extensive damage.

Notes: Ravage presents no problems of spelling or pronunciation so long as we remember that it is a root with the suffix -age. Someone who ravages is a ravager, and the results or act of ravaging is called a ravage, usually used idiomatically in the plural, the ravages (of).

In Play: We have many places in the world that are suffering ravages in 2015: Syria, Iraq (the ravages of war), and now, South Carolina (the ravages of flooding): "The east coast of the US is now suffering the ravages of climate change, which will only worsen as the years roll by." This term is probably used metaphorically more than literally: "His face had been ravaged by time well beyond the reach of any plastic surgeon's knife."

Word History: Today's word was borrowed from French ravager "lay waste, devastate" from the Old French noun ravage "destruction" from the verb ravir "to snatch away". The present participle stem of this word was raviss-, which English converted to ravish. Ravir was inherited from Latin rapere "to seize (and carry off)", which also went into the making of rapid. English borrowed it from French rapide, inherited from Latin rapidus "swift, rapid, impetuous". Yes, it is the root of this word we find lurking beneath rapacious and raptor, which meant "robber, ravisher" in Latin. We see the original Proto-Indo-European word, rep- "seize" in the bowels of surreptitious, taken from Latin surripere "to take away secretly", from sub- "secretly" + rapere "to seize".

Dr. Goodword,

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