One of the mysteries of the English language finally explained.
Originally: a bar or bolt for a door. In later use: a bar or post for supporting a building or other structure; a stay or prop; specifically a wall or pillar of coal supporting the roof of a coal mine.
More fully "rance marble". A kind of variegated marble, predominantly dull red in colour.
with object To prop up, brace, or support.
Late 16th century; earliest use found in Edinburgh Dean of Guild Accounts. Apparently from Middle French (Normandy) rance, regional variant of ranche, both in sense ‘prop supporting the side rails of a cart’ (1411; 1363 as renche, 1388 as rainche; French (chiefly regional) ranche, denoting various pieces of wood supporting the side rails of a cart, also (rarely) the side rails themselves) from the Germanic base of rung, with alteration probably after Middle Dutch ranke (Dutch rank) or its cognate Middle High German or early modern German ranke (German Ranke), both in sense ‘vine, climbing plant’, both of uncertain origin<br>early 17th century; earliest use found in Joshua Sylvester (d. 1618), poet and translator. From Rance, a town in the province of Hainault, Belgium, where the marble is quarried<br>late 17th century. From rance. Compare French rancer to prop (a decrepit building) up using wooden pillars.
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