"wicked, dissolute wretch; thorough rascal," 1550s (1540s as an adjective), possibly an alteration (by association with rake (n.1) and Hell) of Middle English rakel (adj.) "hasty, rash, headstrong," which is probably from raken "to go, proceed," from Old English racian "to go forward, move, hasten," a word of unknown origin. But the verbal phrase rake Hell "go over (Hell) thoroughly" is attested by 1540s. Compare rakeshame (n.) "one who lives shamefully" (1590s).
updated on April 12, 2021