Monday, March 7, 2011

Defining a Rake.

Late Friday night I was going through my Twitter feed to see what sort of gossip I may have missed out on.  A tweet caught my eye:
Lady D Eversley: I wonder how #rakes were given their appellation? Because they 'raked' through sexual Society?
Good question.

Although it was well past my hour to retire and gain some of my valued beauty rest, I went to my trusty source to answer such questions: The Oxford Dictionary.  The definition is as follows:
noun 
a fashionable or wealthy man of dissolute or promiscuous habits.
The word originated in the mid 17th century and is short for the work "rakehell" which doesn't seem to be an official word any more (or ever) since Oxford is void of it.

So it appears the answer to the lovely Lady Eversley's question is, "yes."  Rakes rake hell.

"rake3 "  The Concise Oxford Dictionary of English Etymology. Ed. T. F. Hoad. Oxford University Press, 1996. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press.  College of Saint Rose.  5 March 2011  

8 comments:

  1. I like hearing about old slang. Ive wondered about the term wonton and how that came about.

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  2. I do prefer Rakehell - so descriptive. It's too bad some of the old colorful terms are no longer in use. Now as for wanton ....

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  3. I have a reprinted 1828 Webster's Dictionary - so useful for defining obsolete words and meanings that have changed over the years. So I looked up Rake for you:

    "Rake (Dan. roekel; probably from the root of "break") Noun. A loose, disorderly, vicious man; a man addicted to lewdness and other scandalous vices."

    Rakehell (Dan. roekel; now contracted into rake; properly rakel) Noun. A lewd, dissolute fellow; a debauchee; a rake."

    I assume “Dan” is short for Danish. Also interesting is the female version Rakehame (A vile dissolute wench) and Rakehelly (an adjective meaning wild, dissolute)

    Hope that helps!

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  4. Thank you Jenny-Rose! My online edition didn't have the definition for Rakehell, oddly enough.

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  5. The full OED has this:

    ‘rakehell, adj. and n. Etymology:  < to rake hell at rake v.2 Phrases 1.
    . . B. 2. An immoral or dissolute person; a scoundrel; a rake. In common use from the latter part of the 16th cent. into the 18th cent.
    . . 1690    J. Mackenzie Siege London-derry 2/1   These Rake-hells (who were the very scum of the Countrey).
    1766    C. Anstey New Bath Guide xiv. ii. 97   Brother Simkin's grown a Rakehell, Cards and dances ev'ry Day.
    a1854    R. M. Bird News of Night ii. iii. in America's Lost Plays (1941) xii. 157   Well, young fellow, you are a rakehell, I see.
    1870    W. Thornbury Tour Eng. I. ii. 43   The wild son of a baronet, a rake-hell who had been brought up at Eton . . ‘

    ‘rake v. Phrases 1. trans. to rake (out) hell: (usually in the context of describing a person as villainous or immoral) to search through hell. In later use also to rake hell with a fine-tooth comb.
    . . 1711    G. Cary Physician's Phylactic vii. 335   You have raked Hell for the most Diabolical Lies, and Slanders, that Beelzebub's Malice can invent.
    1781    Pennsylvania Packet 25 Sept. 1/2   If general Clinton had employed the devil and all his imps to have raked hell for a complete villain, they could not have found youre qual [sic].
    1833    J. Hall Harpe's Head xii. 121   If any body was to rake hell with a fine-comb, they would not find sich a—.‥ Sich a tarnal villain.’

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  6. The full OED has:

    ‘rakehell, adj. and n. Etymology:  < to rake hell at rake v.2 Phrases 1.
    . . B. 2. An immoral or dissolute person; a scoundrel; a rake. In common use from the latter part of the 16th cent. into the 18th cent.
    . . 1690    J. Mackenzie Siege London-derry 2/1   These Rake-hells (who were the very scum of the Countrey).
    1766    C. Anstey New Bath Guide xiv. ii. 97   Brother Simkin's grown a Rakehell, Cards and dances ev'ry Day.
    a1854    R. M. Bird News of Night ii. iii. in America's Lost Plays (1941) xii. 157   Well, young fellow, you are a rakehell, I see.
    1870    W. Thornbury Tour Eng. I. ii. 43   The wild son of a baronet, a rake-hell who had been brought up at Eton . . ‘

    ‘rake v. Phrases 1. trans. to rake (out) hell: (usually in the context of describing a person as villainous or immoral) to search through hell. In later use also to rake hell with a fine-tooth comb.
    . . 1711    G. Cary Physician's Phylactic vii. 335   You have raked Hell for the most Diabolical Lies, and Slanders, that Beelzebub's Malice can invent.
    1781    Pennsylvania Packet 25 Sept. 1/2   If general Clinton had employed the devil and all his imps to have raked hell for a complete villain, they could not have found youre qual [sic].
    1833    J. Hall Harpe's Head xii. 121   If any body was to rake hell with a fine-comb, they would not find sich a—.‥ Sich a tarnal villain.’

    This may be a duplicate post.

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