Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • adj. So poorly constructed or kept up that disintegration is likely; rickety: a ramshackle cabin in the woods.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • adj. In disrepair or disorder; poorly maintained; lacking upkeep, usually of buildings or vehicles.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • adj. Loose; disjointed; falling to pieces; out of repair.
  • transitive v. To search or ransack; to rummage.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • Loose-jointed; ill-made; out of gear or repair; crazy; tumble-down; unregulated; chaotic.
  • n. A thoughtless fellow.
  • A corrupt form of ransack, confused with ramshackle.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • adj. in deplorable condition

Etymologies

Back-formation from obsolete ranshackled, ramshackle, alteration of ransackled, past participle of ransackle, to ransack, frequentative of Middle English ransaken, to pillage; see ransack.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
First attested 1830, back-formation from ramshackled, from ransackled, past participle of ransackle ("to ransack"), frequentative of Middle English ransaken ("to pillage"). (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • In the sequence that precedes the flag-raising, for instance, we see the beaches of Guadalcanal littered with the mutilated and charred corpses of both American and Japanese soldiers; and throughout we see wounded men lying in ramshackle battlefield hospitals, their flesh, fatigues, and bandages caked with dirt and blood, all on display in the most gruesome crystal clarity.

    WWII in HD Blu-ray Review – Collider.com

  • About 2,000 people live here, in ramshackle trailer homes, weather-battered recreational vehicles and well-kept brick houses.

    Mexicans Fleeing the Drug War Pour Into the U.S. | Impact Lab

  • In drug dealings, most dealers lived in ramshackle housing/with their parents in run down neighborhoods and died early.

    Think Progress » Coburn: Blocking Unemployment Benefits Is Fine Because It Only Affects A ‘Small Amount Of People’

  • In the June issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, a important study by Tuba Üstüner (City University, London) and Douglas B. Holt (University of Oxford) explores how consumer culture is enacted in ramshackle neighborhoods on the peripheries of global cities.

    May 10th, 2007

  • In the deslocado settlements where internally displaced women of all ages and points of origins were still crowded in ramshackle shelters, supporting children and aged parents and, often, unemployed husbands through backbreaking work in borrowed fields, survival depended to a great extent on one's ability to court and capitalize on extensive networks of friends and kin.

    Where Women Make History: Gendered Tellings of Community and Change in Magude, Mozambique

  • Had she lived to hear Humfrey's new barn, with the verge boards conceded to her taste, called ramshackle?

    Hopes and Fears or, scenes from the life of a spinster

  • Artist and teacher Bruce and Debs Davies have transformed the basement of their terraced house - which they admit themselves is a little 'ramshackle' - into a cultural facility which they hope ultimately will be available for residencies and exhibitions on a regular basis.

    The Guardian World News

  • During three separate Ontario stops this week, the Conservative leader has gradually dropped any reference to Ignatieff in his stump speeches and referred to the "ramshackle coalition" headed by Layton.

    Thestar.com - Home Page

  • The hypnotically undulating rhythms and wavering repetitive melodies of this Congolese septet recall the ramshackle tribal energy of M. I.A.'s debut (with authenticity replacing the overweening ego/sense of entitlement).

    www.philadelphiaweekly.com Philadelphia Weekly

  • Americans shudder at that poor education so many of our children receive, but the desire to get them out of schools that can only be described as ramshackle frequently collides with the attitude that no taxes should be raised to change the situation.

    Deferred maintenance erodes our future

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