Monday, September 27, 2010


Rigmarole \RIG-muh-rohl\ , noun;
1. An elaborate or complicated procedure
2. Confused, incoherent, foolish, or meaningless talk

Well definition 2 certainly seems to apply to most of discourse these days, doesn't it? I like this word, but I was sort of off on the meaning. I thought it was more like jumping through hoops to get something accomplished or a round-about description of something...well, maybe I wasn't that far off.

According to
Attributed from 1736 as "a long, rambling discourse," from an altered Kentish colloquial survival of ragman roll, meaning "long list or catalogue" and dating to the 1520's. Ragman roll derives from a Middle English (medieval) game of chance called Rageman involving a long roll of verses describing personal characters. Rageman probably derives from Anglo-French Ragemon le bon ("Ragemon the good"), which was the heading of one set of the verses, referring to a character by that name. Using rigmarole to mean something like "foolish activity or commotion" is cited in 1955, but it was used orally as early as the 1930's

Typing this word into different search engines I notice something funny: misspelled it! The word is entered as rigmorole, even though the rest of the post spells it rigmarole (which is correct). Silly dictionary, how can I ever trust you again?

The Oxford English Dictionary has all kinds of info on this word; it's a noun, adjective, and verb! Since this particular post lists rigmarole as a noun, I'll stick to that here:
1. a. An unduly protracted, involved, or diffuse piece of speech or writing; a story, explanation, etc., regarded as unintelligible or incoherent. Now rare.
1. b. Without article: language or discourse characterized by elaboration or (excessive) length; (in later use also) rambling or incoherent speech or writing. Now rare.
2. A long, involved, or tedious procedure, or set of these; fuss, 'palaver'

The OED's etymology of this word also refers to Ragman Roll.

I've always thought this word was kind of interesting, but I never really used it because I didn't trust myself to spell it correctly and wasn't sure I knew exactly what it meant. Now I see why, even the dictionaries can't entirely agree! I think it is safe to say that if you're describing something is unnecessarily complicated or confusing, this is the perfect word.

***Editor's note: people must have commented or someone noticed the error, because the misspelling has been corrected...but I swear it was spelled rigmorole this morning!

*Today's word and the first definition were both taken from's 'Word of the Day' for Monday, September 27

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