Definition of rummage in US English:



[no object]
  • 1Search unsystematically and untidily through a mass or receptacle.

    ‘he rummaged in his pocket for a handkerchief’
    with object ‘he rummaged the drawer for his false teeth’
    • ‘After rummaging through his drawer for several minutes he pulled out a pair of tight fitting jeans and long sleeved dark blue shirt.’
    • ‘After rummaging through the drawer Jimmy pulled out a small, shiny object.’
    • ‘Valerie opened one of the drawers and rummaged through its contents.’
    • ‘I spent most of the night rummaging through desk drawers and sifting through filing cabinets.’
    • ‘Over the next half-hour, Chowdhury was searched and his bags rummaged.’
    • ‘He rummaged through a kitchen drawer until he found a flashlight that worked.’
    • ‘Arnold, my son, was inside, kneeling in front of my open desk drawers, rummaging through the various documents within.’
    • ‘After rummaging through her drawers, she finally found her pink lip gloss, applied it, and then put it in her pocket.’
    • ‘Alex rolled her eyes, went into her room and began rummaging through her drawers.’
    • ‘She rummaged through her drawer and found the directions to Megan's house.’
    • ‘I rummaged in the sock drawer for a matching pair, flung on a jacket, and jammed my feet into trainers, and then walked to work in record time.’
    • ‘The twins went into the kitchen, and Rebecca pulled open the drawer, rummaging about for the key.’
    • ‘I'm at the computer for six or seven hours a day, but this also includes a lot of messing about, like rummaging in drawers or leaving my office to go to the fridge.’
    • ‘She started rummaging through a medicine drawer.’
    • ‘Quickly, I jump out of bed, rummaging through my drawers for something to wear.’
    • ‘She rummaged through her nightstand drawer until she found her journal.’
    • ‘I was rummaging through my pocket in search of airsickness pills and looking down at the barren brownish plain, only occasionally dissected with dirt tracks.’
    • ‘She rummaged around the cutlery drawer and came up with a ladle.’
    • ‘He rummaged through several file drawers until he found two sheets of paper which he slid across the desk to me.’
    • ‘I started rummaging through my middle drawer, trying to find a shirt.’
    search, search through, hunt through, scrabble about in, scrabble around in, root about in, root around in, ferret in, ferret about in, ferret around in, fish about in, fish around in, poke around in, dig in, grub about in, delve in, go through, explore, sift through, rifle through, scour, ransack, turn over
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1with object Find (something) by rummaging.
      ‘Mick rummaged up his skateboard’
      • ‘She rummaged up some change, and bought us some sodas.’
      • ‘She handed over her mobile and I rummaged the few digits from my memory.’
      • ‘He stared at the door for a moment before letting out a sigh, rummaging his keys out from his pocket, and unlocking his own.’
    2. 1.2with object (of a customs officer) make a thorough search of (a vessel)
      ‘our brief was to rummage as many of the vessels as possible’


  • 1An unsystematic and untidy search through a mass or receptacle.

    • ‘This well attended enjoyable fair is well worth a rummage and browse through the different stalls.’
    • ‘But after a quick rummage through the brown leather bag, he snaps it shut and gestures to the door.’
    • ‘For any environmental journalist, myself included, a rummage through 30 years of the magazine is a salutary experience.’
    • ‘Set in a depressing flat on a south London estate, teenager Luke rummages down the back of a grubby sofa in a fruitless search for something.’
    • ‘Now and again he has a good rummage though his bookshelf to see what he can find, and at the moment he's reading a book of Robert Browning's poetry.’
    • ‘It was only when the former home help saw an appeal for the winner of the three-week-old jackpot to come forward that a cupboard rummage produced the winning numbers.’
    • ‘I can move stuff from place to place sort of like a modern archaeologist using machinery doing his rummage through history.’
    • ‘I think we could all benefit from a fresh rummage in our drawers to give our wardrobes and our figures the uplift we deserve.’
    • ‘The scramble to the hospital allowed time only for a rummage in the glove compartment of our car, which provided a battered copy of Twenty Golden Country Greats as the sole musical accompaniment to the birth.’
    • ‘A rummage through the BBC archives shows a country suffering a great deal of angst.’
    • ‘He had a rummage around and saw something familiar.’
    • ‘A quick rummage through the pockets confirms that everything is just where you left it last October.’
    • ‘Nephew Jack's third letter again had me delving deep into my drawer full of old newspaper cuttings, and after a quick rummage around I found just what I was looking for.’
    • ‘He chuckles to himself, rummages through his coat's pockets for his pipe.’
    • ‘He went for a walk on the roof, for a rummage in a bin then went back on to the roof.’
    1. 1.1 A thorough search of a vessel by a customs officer.


Late 15th century: from Old French arrumage, from arrumer ‘stow (in a hold)’, from Middle Dutch ruim ‘room’. In early use the word referred to the arranging of items such as casks in the hold of a ship, giving rise (early 17th century) to the verb sense ‘make a search of (a vessel’).