Main definitions of rank in English

: rank1rank2



  • 1A position in the hierarchy of the armed forces.

    ‘an army officer of high rank’
    ‘he was promoted to the rank of Captain’
    • ‘Romanian Americans were also represented in significant numbers during the Korean and Vietnam Wars and many were promoted to officer ranks.’
    • ‘Under our current model, we wait until an officer attains the rank of major before investing in the yearlong command and general staff officer course.’
    • ‘I can think of nothing finer to do for this general officer today than promote her to the rank of major general.’
    • ‘A chaplain receives the same pay, benefits and allowances as any other officer of his rank, and is eligible for full retirement benefits if he serves twenty years.’
    • ‘English is widely used within the government, the officer ranks of the military, and in many institutions of higher learning.’
    • ‘Promoting all new Special Forces troops to Warrant Officer rank, special bonuses and other benefits are all under consideration.’
    • ‘To help alleviate a shortfall of 1,900 captains, the U.S. Army will promote officers earlier to the rank of captain beginning in October.’
    • ‘These are ranks for technical officers who do not have to command troops.’
    • ‘Career opportunities are closely linked with the promotion to a higher rank which officers receive as a rule when appointed to higher job assignments.’
    • ‘There are those who like him - largely in the officer or senior NCO ranks - and those who do not - normally private Soldiers.’
    • ‘In May 2003, he was promoted to the highest rank of cadet officer.’
    • ‘In this year he returned to America with the rank of lieutenant colonel to take up a staff position.’
    • ‘In addition to putting in order the system of assignment to positions, it is advisable to enhance the importance of every officer rank.’
    • ‘The school system prepares an officer for success at the tactical and operational levels and to serve in positions of a strategic nature at the rank of lieutenant colonel and above.’
    • ‘Over the last two decades, about ten percent of the enlisted Special Forces troops were promoted to Warrant Officer rank.’
    • ‘The position for wearing the badges of warrant officer rank changed from the lower forearm to the mid-upper arm at the end of 1996.’
    • ‘He also was a 29-year veteran of the military and held the rank of warrant officer in the U.S. Army Reserve.’
    • ‘There were 34 generals of different ranks from the Egyptian Armed Forces on board the plane.’
    • ‘He later became senior medical officer in Borneo with the rank of lieutenant colonel.’
    • ‘These super Sailors were chosen from the ‘best of the best,’ and as such, were meritoriously promoted to the rank of chief petty officer.’
    1. 1.1A position within the hierarchy of an organization or society.
      ‘only two cabinet members had held ministerial rank before’
      • ‘Position and rank within an organization mean very little.’
      • ‘Other people are chosen based on their international rank within the sport.’
      • ‘They did not need churches or ministers for worship, they recognized no external authority, and they recognized no social rank.’
      • ‘Social rank is also determined by one's region of origin, age, marital status, and gender.’
      • ‘We strive to make sure that ranks reflect the actual level of the students.’
      • ‘Those classes may represent groups of individuals differing by their sex, age, stage, social rank, or geographical position.’
      • ‘Access to literacy was always determined by social rank and by sex.’
      • ‘Wilhemina is in her late 20s and overworking herself as she climbs the ranks in her surgical unit.’
      • ‘Since then Anthony has risen within the company ranks to the position of directing animator, and now calls California home.’
      • ‘Expensive costumes were a vital part of the visual appeal of theatre, and characters of high social rank were represented by appropriately luxurious clothing.’
      • ‘Under this complex system everyone was assigned a rank within society.’
      • ‘He was not within the leading ranks of borough society and performed his citizen's duty only through one stint as chamberlain.’
      position, grade, level, echelon, gradation, point on the scale, rung on the ladder
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2[mass noun]High social position.
      ‘persons of rank and breeding’
      • ‘The rank and social standing of the subjects of portraiture are also expressed by conventions, which shift with time.’
      • ‘Young and beautiful women like you should not be insulted no matter what your social rank may be.’
      • ‘The population was sharply stratified by occupation, income, and social rank.’
      • ‘Clothing was central to social definition, defining one's gender, social rank, occupation, age, marital status, or ethnic identity.’
      • ‘The first of these strategies addresses social rank; the second, economics.’
      • ‘Mona looked ruffled, which wasn't a really unusual expression for her to carry around, given her social rank.’
      • ‘The length of the wake varies according to the social rank and social status of the dead.’
      • ‘The fact remains that many tend to marry people like themselves, especially when it comes to social rank.’
      • ‘He plays up his breeding and rank at every opportunity, and in doing so reveals himself to be an even grubbier character than we first imagined.’
      • ‘Even a complete dunce with absolutely no sense of social rank and cliques would know that a guy like Matt should never go to a party hosted by my sister.’
      • ‘But ten years from now, no one is going to give a damn what social rank you held in high school.’
      • ‘Abraham had a penchant for being critical and had no hesitation in publicly chastising his colleagues, regardless of their rank or position.’
      • ‘Annapolis had a large number of bachelors among those of high social rank.’
      • ‘Traditional values included an acceptance of behavior dependent on social rank.’
      • ‘We are hoping that she will marry well, to a man with security for her and with connections and family and status and even social rank.’
      • ‘Many of the most important rules of etiquette serve to mark differences in social rank.’
      • ‘In this context, jurists and scholars were accorded high social rank.’
      high standing, nobility, aristocracy, blue blood, high birth, eminence, distinction, prestige
      View synonyms
    3. 1.3Statistics A number specifying position in a numerically ordered series.
      • ‘Percentile ranks were used to compare performance among institutions.’
      • ‘Based on results from the vocabulary and reading comprehension sections, participants were assigned a percentile rank.’
      • ‘The STAT scores available for each student range from 100 to 200 for each part and for the total, together with a percentile rank for each.’
      • ‘Higher percentile ranks indicated better relative performance.’
      • ‘For the purpose of this study, a percentile rank of [is less than or equal to] 25 was considered below average for that group.’
    4. 1.4(in systemic grammar) the level of a linguistic unit or set of linguistic units in relation to other sets in the hierarchy.
  • 2A single line of soldiers or police officers drawn up abreast.

    ‘they were drawn up outside their barracks in long ranks’
    • ‘In Andalucia, Spain, birch trees line up in ranks like silent soldiers on a tufted, dewy-green ground cover.’
    • ‘The clouds seemed to form ranks like soldiers, each line catching a thin strand of orange or pink light on its edge.’
    • ‘However, one development was the use of fewer ranks of soldiers making them less susceptible to artillery fire.’
    • ‘The girls tossed flowers and blew kisses as the ranks of military personnel passed by, a supportive gesture tinged with romanticism.’
    • ‘The young king looked out upon the thousands of soldiers lined in ranks, the curved edges of their swords flashing in the morning light.’
    • ‘The procession passed ranks of red-clad guards, their gold badges shining brightly in the sunlight, and turned into the sanded courtyard outside the hall.’
    • ‘By doctrine, to be sure, military police stand in the front ranks of first responders when service support units become incapable of defending themselves.’
    row, line, file, column, series, succession, string, train, procession
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1A regular row or line of things or people.
      ‘conifer plantations growing in serried ranks’
      • ‘Can't quite face the serried ranks of lilac-tulle-clad duchesses and hordes of merchant bankers being corporately entertained?’
      • ‘The grey, flinty slopes covered in the serried ranks of vineyards, gave way to the high pastures, the Alpine meadows, which nourished the famed milch cattle of Switzerland.’
      • ‘Dawn sees a group of hollow-eyed divers gathered on the beach in a fine drizzle, staring slack-jawed at serried ranks of white horses charging towards us atop crackling green breakers.’
      • ‘With its serried ranks of beach brollies and ribbons of restaurants and hotels lining the seafront, it hardly seems the most promising venue for a music festival.’
      • ‘As soon as motorists get used to counting two cameras before putting their foot down, it will be necessary to install three in a row, then four and so on until the whole county is covered by serried ranks of cameras.’
      • ‘At the Tate launch, in front of the serried ranks of the world press, he's at it again.’
      • ‘Here vegetation tends towards dark and spiky lushness, though Darwin itself is trim, its greenery coiffed, its palm trees serried in wind-ruffled ranks around the shoreline.’
      • ‘I went down by the Nieuwe Haven among old steamboats, and walked along ranks of tall houses built for wool merchants and wine shippers.’
      • ‘He turned back to the village and closely inspected its scattered ranks of gray houses; the windows were opaque and the doors sealed shut.’
      • ‘One could perhaps disappear into the olive groves that grew in smoky ranks along the highway, or into the deserted farmsteads that lay in the shadow of the heights.’
      • ‘But at the same time they dread it - because they dread the rest of society forming up in ranks and squeezing them out of the leadership position they think they deserve.’
    2. 2.2Chess Each of the eight rows of eight squares running from side to side across a chessboard.
      Compare with file
      • ‘Meanwhile Black is pinned on the back rank and is thus playing without half his pieces, the black queen-Rook and black queen-Bishop.’
      • ‘The first rank is always where White sets up his major pieces; the eighth rank is where Black sets up his major pieces.’
      • ‘The Knight can defend against a RP, even without it's own King, if it can stop the pawn at the sixth rank.’
      • ‘White cannot prevent the pawns from lining up on the sixth rank.’
      • ‘White has his rook on the seventh rank and Black's queenside pawns are very weak.’
    3. 2.3British
      short for taxi rank
      • ‘He dismissed any suggestion that the central rank posed a danger to people crossing the road to get a taxi.’
      • ‘He suggested that the Council consider providing one central taxi rank in the town rather than a series of smaller ranks.’
      • ‘They said regular day-time taxi users, who include elderly people and parents with young children, have said they are afraid to queue at the rank because of the situation.’
  • 3The people belonging to or constituting a group or class.

    ‘the ranks of Britain's unemployed’
    • ‘Over the past 10 years, 300,000 extra women have joined the ranks of those working outside the home.’
    • ‘But this past summer, the movement faced even more formidable organizing challenges within its own ranks.’
    • ‘With the influx of new blood every year, ready-made stars, they have a massive advantage over the ordinary club side, who must make up the numbers from within their own ranks.’
    • ‘The bad news is that there will inevitably be job losses in the hundreds, if not thousands, among the ranks of common bank workers.’
    • ‘It would be nice to find more redeeming features but what sort of media industry leader profits from free speech but then doesn't tolerate any criticism from within his own ranks.’
    • ‘This semester, I am both humbled and proud to join the ranks of published columnists who choose to express their opinions for the consumption of the masses.’
    • ‘What does it say for any organization that allows this criminal element to exist within its ranks?’
    • ‘Britain's growing ranks of pensioners, present and future, are facing a tough time unless action is taken to tackle a huge shortfall in the nation's pension pot.’
    • ‘They would join the regular ranks of the public.’
    • ‘Though most remained members of the working class, large numbers moved into the ranks of the lower middle classes.’
    • ‘Though not quite gifted enough to enter the ranks of the elite, he wasn't through with sports.’
    • ‘Ever since, the boys in blue have largely come from the ranks of the working and lower middle classes.’
    • ‘Unfortunately, neither our media nor academic establishments allow much intellectual diversity in their ranks.’
    • ‘The enormous expansion of white collar work throughout the twentieth century meant pushing the vast majority down into the ranks of the working class.’
    • ‘But they are making strides on all fronts and their ranks are growing.’
    • ‘Governments rose and fell, new participants swelled the ranks of the political elite, and the middle class kept expanding.’
    • ‘But despite the escalating pressure, rebel leaders claim the strength of their ranks is growing rather than draining away.’
    • ‘And this much we know already: unless we open up political debate within our own ranks, our politics will not be improved.’
    • ‘There are candidates qualified and experienced to hold the reins of this office, from within the ranks of the organisation.’
    • ‘Against a picturesque backdrop, our sailors charted the course to glory, confirming their position as the most successful team within the British ranks.’
    1. 3.1(in the armed forces) those who are not commissioned officers.
      ‘he was fined and reduced to the ranks’
      • ‘An easy-to-read guide is circulating within the ranks, via email, offering a tongue-in-cheek explanation to terminology used by the Ministry of Defence.’
      • ‘The Army has been drawing officer from the ranks of our soldiers for most of our history.’
      • ‘A bare majority was from West Point; the rest had risen from the ranks or were National Guardsmen or Reservists.’
      • ‘He was sentenced to be reduced to the ranks and put under stoppages of pay until he had made good the sum of £1,200 compensation to his victim.’
      • ‘Like all the graduating cadets, he was assigned to a unit as a platoon lieutenant, commanding the ranks of the enlisted men.’
      • ‘Traditionally the British army gives the post of regimental QM to an officer commissioned from the ranks.’
      • ‘Well, in other military news tonight, there's some grumbling in the ranks over a new combat award.’
      • ‘For example, the army not only commissioned officers from the ranks, but in November 1942 eradicated all formal educational barriers for officer candidates.’
      • ‘Officers promoted from the ranks say they miss the easy friendliness and companionship of the mess deck but it is hard to see how.’
      • ‘The ranks of the regular army were drawn overwhelmingly from the highly urbanized, heavily garrisoned northern and eastern frontier districts.’
      • ‘Dissent within the ranks was substantial, officers had lost control, desertion had increased, and soldiers wanted to go home regardless of orders.’
      • ‘He had no compunction in reducing officers to the ranks or hitting men who failed the test in action.’
      • ‘He had the required service in the ranks but wondered whether as a former commissioned officer he was eligible for admission.’
      • ‘In the 1970s he left the ranks to become a commissioned officer, serving in Germany and the Falkland Islands.’
      • ‘These were youths of noble birth and of doubtful education who would serve in the ranks and then receive commissions after two or more years' service.’
      • ‘By May 1945 there were 8,300,000 soldiers in the Army's ranks.’
      • ‘In addition to this resistance within the ranks, military families have become public anti-war spokespeople and frontline activists.’
      • ‘There was great excitement in the ranks as scouts raced ahead.’
      • ‘There's a lot of work to be done within the ranks.’
  • 4Mathematics
    The value or the order of the largest non-zero determinant of a given matrix.

    • ‘We use a generalized inverse of V, however, in case it is not of full rank; if this occurs, the degrees of freedom are the rank of the matrix V.’
    • ‘The rigidity of a matrix is the number of entries in a matrix which need to be changed in order to bring the rank of the matrix down to a certain value.’
    • ‘The correlation matrix values were obtained using the Spearman rank order correlation test.’
    • ‘The rank of this matrix is 1, so that the equation is identified.’
    • ‘This is the well-known criterion which says that a system of linear equations has a solution if and only if the rank of the matrix of the associated homogeneous system is equal to the rank of the augmented matrix of the system.’
    1. 4.1An analogous quantity in other kinds of group.


  • 1Give (someone or something) a rank or place within a grading system.

    ‘students ranked the samples in order of preference’
    [with object and complement] ‘she is ranked number four in the world’
    • ‘To qualify for the Games in 2002, competitors had to show they could deliver a score or time which would rank them within the top ten in their event.’
    • ‘The U.S. and Germany were ranked fifth and sixth respectively.’
    • ‘Rugby ranks 15th among school sports and physical activities - just behind dance!’
    • ‘California ranks 18th among the states in its tax burden.’
    • ‘Also, they rank the choices within a given question, not across questions.’
    • ‘The service ranks the most popular search subjects each day, listing leaders in music, movies, sports, and TV, among others.’
    • ‘I know that you can do better than that and just stay there because he has given you the most respect and ranked you higher than any other of his generals.’
    • ‘Because of the increased usage of the Internet for transacting business, students were asked to rank their understanding of e-commerce.’
    • ‘The proposed early job match pilot will allow students to rank jobs immediately after an interview and be informed of a perfect match within a day.’
    • ‘On this scale, one may now rank the different propulsion systems available to different types of civilizations.’
    • ‘They also fear it may lead to the introduction of school league tables ranking schools based on students' academic performance and/or other criteria.’
    • ‘They also send surveys to financial analysts asking them to rank companies within the industries they cover.’
    • ‘Review the list above and rank yourself as you did with the first list.’
    • ‘Although being a team player was the most important trait to students, nurses ranked it ninth.’
    • ‘Seventy-four percent of the students ranked this last factor as least important.’
    • ‘At present education proceeds by ranking pupils and students according to their success in a very narrow range of abilities - mostly logical and mathematical ones.’
    • ‘In this admirable system, one ranks the candidates in order of preference.’
    • ‘The country ranks 15th among the 40 most attractive countries to host company outsourcing.’
    • ‘Students would rank each level as if it were a separate program.’
    classify, class, categorize, rate, grade, type, order, sort, bracket, group, pigeonhole, designate
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1[no object, with adverbial]Have a specified rank or place within a grading system.
      ‘he now ranks third in America’
      • ‘You are able to receive special interest rates that have consistently ranked among the highest in the nation.’
      • ‘Its research in bio-technology and pharmaceuticals ranks among the world's best.’
      • ‘They spent much of the 2002 season ranked among the best in the province, only to stumble in an abbreviated playoff format due to a labour dispute.’
      • ‘Manchester and Edinburgh ranked among the British favourites.’
      • ‘I would say it ranks among the best in the world, and it's not just me who thinks so.’
      • ‘His achievement ranked among the best in Irish sport and his reward for lifting the spirits of a nation was to be named Irish Person of the Year at a televised ceremony.’
      • ‘He must once again be ranked among the profession's leading designers and the gaming world is a better place because of it.’
      • ‘My school was ranked as the Number One non-magnet, public high school in California last year.’
      • ‘Financial concerns were ranked as the greatest obstacle for students of color attending graduate programs.’
      • ‘Now aged 41 he believes that he has a good chance of a medal, particularly as his performances are still ranking among the top flight of athletes who have not yet reached veteran status.’
      • ‘To earn a place among the blue chips, companies must rank among the 100 biggest companies by stock market value.’
      • ‘The once or twice my PE instructor, Sarge, forced me to play in public basketball competitions rank among my most painful memories.’
      • ‘These can rank among the most reliable of sources, when properly evaluated and analyzed.’
      • ‘He says disciplinary matters have to be left to professional staff and points to the authority's ranking among the top performers in the country.’
      • ‘A number of internet sites publish current lists of gold funds, ranked by performance.’
      • ‘Leadership ranks as the single most important ingredient to successful warfighting.’
      • ‘At this point, anything will help a unit that ranks near the bottom of the NFL in average for kickoff coverage and returns.’
      • ‘The awards ceremony, when the list of 50 companies will be ranked according to percentage growth, is on Wednesday.’
      • ‘The playing field is now upgraded with a drainage system and re-turfed to rank among the best in Colombo.’
      • ‘But the true of measure of its success is its efficiency, ranked among the best in the world.’
      have a rank, be graded, be placed, be positioned, have a status, be classed, be classified, be categorized
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2US [with object]Take precedence over (someone) in respect of rank; outrank.
      ‘the Secretary of State ranks all the other members of the cabinet’
  • 2Arrange in a row or rows.

    ‘the tents were ranked in orderly rows’
    line up, align, draw up, put in order, set in order, order, place, position, arrange, dispose, set out, array, range
    View synonyms


  • break rank (or ranks)

    • 1(of soldiers or police officers) fail to remain in line.

      • ‘Rather, they scattered, breaking rank, and fled towards the burning barracks.’
      • ‘The entire squadron broke ranks, laughing, clapping and cheering.’
      • ‘When the first egg was discovered, we broke ranks to inspect it; it was slightly elongated, golf-ball-size, and camouflaged with dark green mottling on a light green field.’
      • ‘All of us stamp our right foot and salute, before breaking ranks to go to our squadrons.’
      • ‘They charged the enemy then retreated, hoping the enemy would break ranks and pursue them into a well-coordinated trap.’
      • ‘Suddenly, without hesitation, they broke ranks, with a large group heading southeast in a V-shaped formation.’
      • ‘The colonel told the soldiers to break ranks and gather around him.’
      • ‘However, they were slowly overwhelmed, and left with no other choice, the soldiers broke ranks and retreated.’
      • ‘The soldiers would then break ranks and charge, raising their shields like the petals of a blooming flower.’
      • ‘The squad breaks ranks and enters the barracks.’
      1. 1.1Fail to maintain solidarity.
        ‘the government is prepared to break ranks with the Allied states’
        • ‘Over the years though, ski resort operators noticed that they started losing money by turning snowboarders away, and when a few resorts broke ranks and began raking in the cash, eventually most resorts complied.’
        • ‘Some fiscal conservatives within the Republican Party broke ranks to protest the pet projects that are earmarked for lawmakers' home districts.’
        • ‘Nineteen senators broke ranks with the administration.’
        • ‘A Yorkshire teacher will today call on his union to break ranks with the rest of the profession and back city academies.’
        • ‘This silence, I think, derives from a historical tradition emphasizing solidarity, a reluctance to break ranks.’
        • ‘Some Republicans break ranks with the White House.’
        • ‘Then again, Malcolm, you probably wouldn't want to break ranks with your Fairfax colleagues.’
        • ‘There are times when even partisans have to break ranks if they want to maintain credibility, and this is one of them.’
        • ‘The insider claims that a senior civil servant in the Home Office broke ranks and told his bosses that he could not go along with the official line.’
        • ‘And many have refused to break ranks with tradition.’
  • close ranks

    • 1(of soldiers or police officers) come closer together in a line.

      • ‘I think that when the police feel under attack they tend to close ranks.’
      • ‘As the sons and daughters of professional Army officers, our impulse was to close ranks and stand where we were told to stand.’
      1. 1.1Unite in order to defend common interests.
        ‘the family had always closed ranks in times of crisis’
        • ‘Their unprecedented public embrace confirmed the government was closing ranks against a common foe.’
        • ‘Publicly, the party was one step closer to closing ranks.’
        • ‘But independent pharmacists are already closing ranks to fight any proposed changes.’
        • ‘We should both call on all our supporters to prepare themselves to close ranks as Americans and unite the country behind the winner as soon as this process is complete.’
        • ‘But this morning, the Administration's best and brightest were closing ranks.’
        • ‘It is not, however, clear that the community is united enough yet to effectively close ranks against coalition forces.’
        • ‘The food industry was closing ranks today over the prospect of introducing a traffic light-style scheme to label the healthiness of foods.’
        • ‘The teammates, all female, asserted that her terrifying behavior that day justified their permanently closing ranks against her.’
        • ‘When an academic exposes some problem such as favouritism, plagiarism or sexual abuse, it is common for senior academics and administrators to close ranks and squelch open discussion.’
        • ‘Why don't we close ranks, to face these economic interests?’
  • keep rank

    • (of soldiers or police officers) remain in line.

  • pull rank

    • Take unfair advantage of one's seniority.

      ‘someone pulled rank and took my place’
      • ‘The chairman pulled rank, as they so often do in such open and shut cases, and persuaded his underlings he was entitled to enter his court.’
      • ‘When Ricky broke his arm and was kept waiting because of insurance concerns, Melissa finally pulled rank as a legislator's wife and got her family added to his state coverage - at a cost of about $300 a month.’
      • ‘For the next few days, he denied he had tried to pull rank.’
      • ‘The phone lines are soon filled, and most of the stories have a common theme: The junior senator pulling rank on one of his constituents, breaking in line, demanding to pay less, or ducking out before the bill arrives.’
      • ‘Papa, a captain when he left the reserves, still knew how to pull rank.’
      • ‘When pulling rank fails to get him off the hook, Wade resorts to desperate measures to escape justice.’
      • ‘The coach pulls rank and throws somebody out of their seat.’
      • ‘So who do you think you're kidding by pulling rank on me?’
      • ‘The skipper, to his credit, doesn't just pull rank and yell at him.’
      • ‘Sometimes you just have to pull rank because you are the adult.’
  • rise through (or from) the ranks

    • 1(of a private or a non-commissioned officer) receive a commission.

      • ‘Very few officers rose from the ranks, and those who did were disliked.’
      • ‘Later, his father rose through the ranks in the army, but he never forgot.’
      • ‘Michael quickly rose through the ranks as orderly sergeant, first lieutenant and captain.’
      • ‘In the process, he became a military strategist, rising through the ranks from major to brigadier general.’
      • ‘I had to become a soldier who would rise through the ranks and emerge a commander of men.’
      • ‘He stayed with the brigade, rising through the ranks to chief fire officer, until it was disbanded when the works closed in 1982.’
      • ‘During the war he rose through the ranks from an officer school cadet to a major in command of a rifle battalion.’
      • ‘He rose through the ranks of the military and was appointed Under-Secretary at the Ministry of Defence on 6 June 1940.’
      • ‘He graduated from West Point in 1917 and rose through the ranks as an infantry officer.’
      • ‘Only those that could understand the Colonel could rise through the ranks.’
      1. 1.1Advance in an organization by one's own efforts.
        ‘he rose through the ranks to become managing director’
        • ‘After working as a welder he attended university, and rose through the ranks of the steel industry to emerge as deputy head of a large steel mill.’
        • ‘The corporation grew rapidly, and she rose through the ranks, becoming the deputy head of the legal department.’
        • ‘As Condit rose through the ranks, his private life became more of an issue within the company.’
        • ‘Her first job was as a sales assistant, but she soon rose through the ranks to become a buyer for a major department store.’
        • ‘He rapidly rose through the ranks until he was offered the chance to be its Leeds-based director of operations for the north of England and Scotland.’
        • ‘He rose through the ranks at the firm, which his father Sydney had helped to set up, eventually becoming a director and then spending ten years as chairman.’
        • ‘A few years later he became a pilot and rose through the ranks to management grade by the time he was 30.’
        • ‘He joined the airline in the 1980s and steadily rose through the ranks before eventually taking over responsibility for the day-to-day running of the airline.’
        • ‘From there he rose through the ranks to become operations director in 1992.’
        • ‘Born in Yorkshire in 1910 she began her political career in the 1940s and rose through the ranks to become Transport Minister.’


Middle English (in the sense ‘row of things’): from Old French ranc, of Germanic origin; related to ring.




Main definitions of rank in English

: rank1rank2



  • 1(of vegetation) growing too thickly and coarsely.

    ‘clumps of rank grass’
    • ‘We saw the ponies, here to eat the rank vegetation.’
    • ‘We were up quite high on the southern side of the Uldale, a flank of rough rank grasses, rushes, and countless seepage and springs.’
    • ‘What a sad impression York makes here; traffic islands are poorly gardened, few are landscaped and all are covered in rank weeds and seedlings giving the appearance of set-aside fields.’
    • ‘But as the rains progress, they abandon the tall, rank grass in the floodplains and woodlands in search of more palatable foodstuff.’
    • ‘He slipped, stumbled, and fell full length into the rank grass.’
    • ‘Behind these violent and ugly displays of rank bullying lies a profound irony.’
    • ‘She causes, some say, desolation, evil, and decay, yet she also creates palaces of art and culture, gardens of rank luxuriance.’
    • ‘Engulfing new plantings, the rank growth took on the appearance of an emergent urban ecosystem.’
    • ‘Wall Street has never been a safe place to play, but now your investments could be skewed by rank dishonesty.’
    • ‘Corncrakes, for instance, live in rank grass and high meadow.’
    • ‘Last year, it was also discovered that the site has a thriving population of the endangered water vole due to the rank grass which provides ideal protection and a source of food.’
    • ‘Light weight and enormous toes enable them to negotiate rank vegetation by simply walking over the top.’
    • ‘The parklike understory turned into rank undergrowth, and the inevitable result was a bushfire that destroyed all the old-growth, hollow trees.’
    • ‘The Boston Globe's Jeff Jacoby has also commented on the rank hypocrisy that is being demonstrated here.’
    • ‘Then we re-entered the dunes and walked the edge of Newborough Warren, the grassed over portion of the nature reserve which is grazed by grey ponies to keep down rank grasses and for the benefit of the sand wasp.’
    abundant, lush, luxuriant, dense, profuse, flourishing, exuberant, vigorous, productive, spreading, overgrown
    View synonyms
  • 2Having a foul or offensive smell.

    ‘breathing rank air’
    • ‘‘I think every piece of that title is vital,’ Slutsky explains through steady gusts of hot, rank air.’
    • ‘It was nighttime outside, dark and cloudy, so the sewers were pitch black, and he landed knee deep in rank stinking water.’
    • ‘A rank smell of decay and woodrot drifted from inside the helmet.’
    • ‘The flesh was pale grey in the thin light and the stomach had a harsh, rank smell.’
    • ‘Mounted fans whirred overhead, efficiently distributing the rank air and grime into all corners.’
    • ‘You couldn't walk past his bedroom door without noticing that acrid, rank acidic smell.’
    • ‘The rank smoky smell recalls the lamp at Uncle Don's lodge on the lake where Jack and I went to swim on hot nights.’
    • ‘A rank smell wafted its way towards Hailey's nose.’
    • ‘He needs to do something about the rank smell of dead fish emanating from the bathrooms.’
    • ‘The hand on his shoulder was moved to cover his mouth; Braiden smelt the man's rank breath as he leaned heavily on the boy's slender frame.’
    • ‘Scars were abundant in the little group and there was a definite rank smell about them.’
    • ‘The rank smell of the soaking water and the crispness of the soaked cabbage shreds indicate that this is a worthwhile step.’
    • ‘The rank odor of stale sweat filled the dank air.’
    • ‘As she got closer she could smell the sweat on him and the rank smell of horse.’
    • ‘A rank smell filled her nose and she put it down as Mistee began talking.’
    • ‘She could smell his rank breath as he whispered fervently to her.’
    offensive, unpleasant, nasty, disagreeable, revolting, sickening, obnoxious, noxious
    View synonyms
    1. 2.1informal Very unpleasant.
      ‘the tea at work is nice but the coffee's pretty rank’
  • 3[attributive] (especially of something bad or deficient) complete and utter (used for emphasis)

    ‘rank stupidity’
    ‘a rank outsider’
    • ‘I refuse to forgive the rank idiocy of this dog's owner.’
    • ‘Now, Dave's column is rank idiocy.’
    • ‘Insults to public intelligence and rank stupidity became commonplace.’
    • ‘You represent rank imperialism and warmongering - neither of them American traditions or values - so I wish you were not coming to this country.’
    • ‘The product of the Soviets' laudable campaign for universal public housing, Petrzalka's rank ugliness serves only to emphasize what a jewel the old part of the city is.’
    • ‘Her Sunday column was rank hypocrisy.’
    • ‘Please, let's not kill the spirit of the season with rank stupidity.’
    • ‘How Americans will react to this rank ingratitude is beyond me.’
    • ‘And when taken to extremes, such as at these schools in Kirkland and Puyallup, political correctness sinks to the realm of rank stupidity.’
    • ‘It is rank intellectual dishonesty and hypocrisy on your part.’
    • ‘The point about the market is that it is not only immoral - or rather amoral - it is also capable of rank stupidity.’
    • ‘But he frankly identifies the rank dishonesty of the memo.’
    • ‘It is clear that your hate is founded in your arrogant elitism and your rank racism.’
    • ‘I think of myself a political moderate, but the callousness and the rank inefficiency of much of the current Republican party leadership leaves a very bad taste in my mouth.’
    • ‘‘You have to believe that the station chief blew a gift from the gods because of rank incompetence,’ Mr. Perle said.’
    downright, utter, outright, out-and-out, absolute, complete, sheer, stark, thorough, thoroughgoing, categorical, unequivocal, undeniable, unqualified, unmodified, unrestricted, unmitigated, unconditional, positive, simple, wholesale, all-out, perfect, consummate, patent, pure, total, entire, flat, direct, dead, final, conclusive
    View synonyms


Old English ranc ‘proud, rebellious, sturdy’, also ‘fully grown’, of Germanic origin. An early sense ‘luxuriant’ gave rise to ‘too luxuriant’, whence the negative connotation of modern usage.