from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A relative position in a society.
  • noun An official position or grade.
  • noun A relative position or degree of value in a graded group.
  • noun High or eminent station or position.
  • noun A row, line, series, or range.
  • noun A line of soldiers, vehicles, or equipment standing side by side in close order.
  • noun The armed forces.
  • noun Personnel, especially enlisted military personnel.
  • noun A body of people classed together; numbers.
  • noun Games Any of the rows of squares running crosswise to the files on a playing board in chess or checkers.
  • intransitive verb To place in a row or rows.
  • intransitive verb To give a particular order or position to; classify.
  • intransitive verb To outrank or take precedence over.
  • intransitive verb To hold a particular rank.
  • intransitive verb To form or stand in a row or rows.
  • intransitive verb To complain.
  • intransitive verb To engage in carping criticism. Often used with on:
  • idiom (pull rank) To use one's superior rank to gain an advantage.
  • adjective Growing profusely or with excessive vigor.
  • adjective Yielding a profuse, often excessive crop; highly fertile.
  • adjective Strong and offensive in odor or flavor.
  • adjective Absolute; complete: synonym: flagrant.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • Strong; powerful; capable of acting or of being used with great effect; energetic; vigorous; headstrong.
  • Strong of its kind or in character; unmitigated; virulent; thorough; utter: as, rank poison; rank treason; rank nonsense.
  • Strong in growth; growing with vigor or rapidity; hence, coarse or gross: said of plants.
  • Suffering from overgrowth or hypertrophy, plethoric.
  • Causing strong growth; producing luxuriantly; rich and fertile.
  • Strong to the senses; offensive; noisome; rancid: as, a rank taste or odor.
  • Hence Coarse or gross morally; offensive to the mind; obscene; indecent; foul.
  • Ruttish; in heat.
  • In law, excessive; exceeding the actual value: as, a rank modus.
  • In mech., cutting strongly or deeply, as the iron of a plane set so as to project more than usual.
  • Eager; anxious; impatient: as, he was rank to do it.
  • Very angry; in a passion.
  • To become rank.
  • In logging, to haul and pile regularly: as, to rank bark or cord-wood.
  • noun A name proposed by Perry for the thermodynamic quantity, .
  • noun A line, row, or range.
  • noun Specifically— One of the rows of a body of troops, or of any persons similarly ranged in a right-and-left line; a line of soldiers or other persons standing abreast in a formation: distinguished from file, 5. See rank and file, under file.
  • noun Hence— plural The lines or divisions of an army or any armed force; organized soldiery; the body or class of common soldiers; as, the ranks are full; to rise from the ranks; to reduce an officer to the ranks.
  • noun In organ-building, a row or set of pipes, one for each digital of the keyboard. A mixture-stop is said to be of two, three, four, or five ranks, according to the numbers of pipes sounded at once by a single digital.
  • noun One of the lines of squares on a chess-board running from side to side, in distinction from the files, which run from player to player.
  • noun A row, as of leaves on a stem.
  • noun A continuous line or course; a stretch.
  • noun A class, order, or grade of persons; any aggregate of individuals classed together for some common reason, as social station, occupation, character, or creed: as, the Prohibition ranks; the ranks of the Anarchists.
  • noun Grade in a scale of comparison; class or classification: natural or acquired status; relative position; standing.
  • noun Specifically, of persons— Titular distinction or dignity; gradation by hereditary, official, or other title: as, civil, judicial, or military rank; the rank of baron or marquis; the rank of general or admiral; the rank of ambassador or governor. The relative rank of officers of the United States army and navy is as follows: General ranks with admiral; lieutenant-general with vice-admiral; major-general with rear-admiral; brigadier-general with commodore; colonel with captain; lieutenant-colonel with commander; major with lieutenant-commander; captain with lieutenant(senior grade); first lieutenant with lieutenant (junior grade); second lieutenant with ensign.


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

[Middle English, line, row, from Old French ranc, renc, of Germanic origin; see sker- in Indo-European roots.]

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

[Middle English ranc, from Old English, strong, overbearing; see reg- in Indo-European roots.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

Middle English rank ("line, row"), from Old French reng, rang, ranc ("line, row, rank") (Modern French rang), from Frankish hring ("ring"), from Proto-Germanic *hringaz (“something bent or curved”), which is of uncertain origin.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From Middle English rank ("strong, proud"), from Old English ranc ("proud, haughty, arrogant, insolent, forward, overbearing, showy, ostentatious, splendid, bold, valiant, noble, brave, strong, full-grown, mature"), from Proto-Germanic *rankaz (“straight”), from Proto-Indo-European *h₃reǵ- (“straight, direct”). Cognate with Dutch rank ("slender, slim"), Low German rank ("slender, projecting, lank"), Danish rank ("straight, erect, slender"), Swedish rank ("slender, shaky, wonky"), Icelandic rakkr ("straight, slender, bold, valiant").


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  • Lieut. Martin says that the bayonets and rifle-barrels of the front rank were sometimes struck and jammed _by bullets from the rear rank_.

    Afghanistan and the Anglo-Russian Dispute

  • I. iii.196 (33,7) How rank soever rounded in with danger] A _rank weed_ is a _high weed_.

    Notes to Shakespeare, Volume III: The Tragedies

  • HasChildNodes) {CatalogTitle title = ParseSingleCatalogTitle (subNode); null) {title. rank = rank++; _titleList.

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  • To connect my previous military service to today†™ s military service in connection to my rank is your mistake, not mine.

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  • Next to the rank is the "V" that normally stands for valor.

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  • His character is the sum total of all these blobs, textures, and tastes; the word rank, addressed to Gertude, actually makes my mouth go bitter.

    The Beautiful Miscellaneous

  • His character is the sum total of all these blobs, textures, and tastes; the word rank, addressed to Gertude, actually makes my mouth go bitter.

    The Beautiful Miscellaneous

  • Jim Glassman, you have said, and you have written that the opposition, the outcry was, the result of what you called rank racist nonsense, and it was foolish, and embarrassing.

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  • Now in a place so small as Jerusalem, what we call the rank and file really counts.

    The New Jerusalem

  • TCO, it is rather obvious that a general classification like amateur has little predictive value of a poster’s knowledge and that is why I apply the term rank amateur to describe myself.

    Curry's Comments on Klotzbach « Climate Audit


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  • Such an interesting word. It can mean fertile, offensive in odor, the relative status or position in a hierarchy, a row on a chess board, or a line of soldiers. My favorite use is as an intensifier for absolute as in the beautiful Appalachian ballad Rank Stranger:

    "Everybody I met, seemed to be a rank stranger.

    No Mother or Dad, not a friend could I see.

    They knew not my name, I knew not their faces.

    I found they were all rank strangers to me."

    November 12, 2007

  • For the record, the row on a chess board is named in direct analogy for the line of soldiers. I would imagine the hierarchy term comes from this as well.

    November 12, 2007

  • Whoa. Nomenclature for a war game taken from military terminology? Who would have guessed?

    Do you suppose "knight" comes from...nah, too obvious.


    November 12, 2007

  • from Persian rang meaning "color", as the Sassanid army was ranked and dressed by color

    August 31, 2009