Definitions

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

  • transitive v. To search or examine thoroughly.
  • transitive v. To search carefully for plunder; pillage.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • v. To loot or pillage. See also sack.
  • v. To make a vigorous and thorough search of (a place, person) with a view to stealing something, especially when leaving behind a state of disarray.
  • v. To examine carefully; to investigate.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • transitive v. To search thoroughly; to search every place or part of.
  • transitive v. To plunder; to pillage completely.
  • transitive v. To violate; to ravish; to defiour.
  • intransitive v. To make a thorough search.
  • n. The act of ransacking, or state of being ransacked; pillage.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To search thoroughly; seek carefully in all parts of; explore, point by point, for what is desired; overhaul in detail.
  • To sack; pillage completely; strip by plundering.
  • To obtain by ransacking or pillage; seize upon; carry off; ravish.
  • To violate; deflower: as, “ransackt chastity,”
  • To make penetrating search or inquisition; pry; rummage.
  • n. Detailed search or inquisition; careful investigation.
  • n. A ransacking; search for plunder; pillage; sack.

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

  • v. steal goods; take as spoils
  • v. search thoroughly

Etymologies

Middle English ransaken, from Old Norse rannsaka : rann, house + *saka, to search, seek; see sāg- in Indo-European roots.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
From Middle English ransaken, from Old Norse rannsakka, from rann ("house") + saka ("search"); probably influenced by sack (Wiktionary)

Examples

  • It is true, Hawley said, that TSA agents open the luggage of all selectees (the word "ransack" seems another case of the clerk editorializing).

    From the WSJ Opinion Archives

  • I-9 audit, asking for records instead of what he described as a "ransack" of the business, which started at 8: 30 a.m.

    The Orange County Register - News Headlines : Top Stories

  • Patrician vicissitudes run ransack with benign alignments of the brain.

    Satan and the Moon

  • They ransack everything from 1960s handclaps to 1950s-style twangs.

    Howler: Ransacking rock'n'roll

  • I said “back in the days of the stress tests,” that particular epoch, a time when the banks were tied and gagged and on their knees, and we, the American people, had an opportunity to ransack THEIR house.

    Matthew Yglesias » Battle Lines on Banking

  • Throw petrol over a policeman, shout for people to be killed, ransack shops, launch everything you can lift at the police = no problem. on January 12, 2009 at 6: 49 pm | Reply Jack Straw

    All That Trouble Over A Footballer « POLICE INSPECTOR BLOG

  • I'm pretty sure this would impact this problem in a good way, cause if I was trying to ransack a 200 'tanker and I saw armed men keeping watch, I'll go elsewhere in my fishing boat and look for easier prey.

    Pirates Impacting The Seychelles

  • It is famously one of the most troubling poems in the Psalter, giving conniptions to theologians, who ransack the life of David for an enemy vile enough to deserve a song so hard to hear as God's inspired word.

    David Van Biema: Bad News Psalms

  • To leap ahead, Andersen goes on to argue that all this toing and froing -- all this boring sameness -- stems from the democratization of distribution caused by the information revolution, which allows everyone you, me, Pottery Barn to ransack the past for previously inaccessible style and consume it like a fast-food cheeseburger, a sighing decline into nostalgia and cultural obesity.

    Robert Teitelman: Andersen and DeLong Review the Past

  • But things get strange when one of his professors turns up to ransack his apartment and question him about a reproduction of an alien artifact known as the Star Stone.

    REVIEW: Doorways in the Sand by Roger Zelazny

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