Definition of rack rent in English:

rack rent


  • An extortionate or very high rent, especially an annual rent equivalent to the full value of the property to which it relates.

    • ‘It was March 1880 and the Land War was in full swing when rebellious tenants all over Ireland refused to pay rack rents due to the fact that they had no money and were on the constant threshold of famine.’
    • ‘By the 19th century, the traditional rents were so out of line with real values that landlords sought to convert them to rack rents.’
    • ‘They were a subdued and powerless people owing their very existence to landlords and their agents who worked them to the bond with rack rents.’
    • ‘A rack rent, therefore, was a high, level rent, unlike earlier forms (mainly beneficial leases and copyholds) that had the tenant pay a large lump sum followed by a nominal rent and, perhaps, feudal services in money, labor or kind.’
    • ‘Rack-renting and Farmers' Returns on Capital: Beneficial leases survived in certain areas as late as the end of the 19th century, but from around 1750 landlords increasingly imposed rack rents.’
    • ‘They rearranged their estates to create larger tenant farms on rack rents, with a decline in small yeomen farmers with customary tenure or freeholds.’


[with object]rack-rent
  • Exact an excessive or extortionate rent from (a tenant) or for (a property)

    ‘hundreds of thousands of peasants who hate corruption, rack-renting, and foreign intervention’
    ‘rack-renting landlords’
    • ‘A small studio in the centre of the town - ideal either for monitoring the joyful events in person or indeed for rack-renting desperate pilgrims - starts at around €30,000.’
    • ‘One reason for introducing short leases was so that ‘rack-rented farms could… become subject to market forces… ’, but another was that they made tenants more accountable to landlords.’


Late 16th century (as rack-rented): from the verb rack (in the sense ‘cause stress’) + the noun rent.