- rank (v.)
- "arrange things in order, classify," 1580s, from rank (n.). Related: Ranked; ranking.
- rank (n.)
- c.1400, a row of an army, from Old French ranc, from Frankish *hring or some other Germanic source (cf. Old High German hring "circle, ring"), from Proto-Germanic *khrengaz "circle, ring" (see ring (n.)). Meaning "social position" is from early 15c.
- rank (adj.)
- Old English ranc "proud, overbearing, showy," from Proto-Germanic *rankaz (cf. Danish rank "right, upright," German rank "slender," Old Norse rakkr "straight, erect"), perhaps from PIE *reg- "to stretch, straighten" (see right (adj.)).
In reference to plant growth, "vigorous, luxuriant," it is recorded from mid-13c. Sense evolved in Middle English to "large and coarse" (c.1300), then, via notion of "excessive and unpleasant," to "having a strong bad smell" (1520s). Much used 16c. as a pejorative intensive (cf. rank folly). This is possibly the source of the verb meaning "to reveal another's guilt" (1929, underworld slang), and that of "to harass, abuse," 1934, U.S. black dialect, though this also may be from the role of the activity in establishing social hierarchy (from rank (n.)).