1808, "country house," from American Spanish rancho "small farm, group of farm huts," from Spanish rancho "mess-room," originally, "group of people who eat together," from ranchear "to lodge or station," from Old French ranger "install in position," from rang "row, line," from Frankish *hring or some other Germanic source, from Proto-Germanic *hringaz "circle, ring, something curved," from nasalized form of PIE root *sker- (2) "to turn, bend."
Sense of "large stock-farm and herding establishment" is from 1831. Of houses, "single-story, split-level" (adj.) from 1950; as a noun from 1960. Ranch-house attested from 1862.
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