1 : a disorganized or confused collection of things
2 a : a disorganized or disorderly crowd of people : mob
b : the lowest class of people
Did You Know?
Rabble has been with the English language since its appearance in Middle English (as rabel) around the turn of the 15th century. The Middle English rabel (originally used to denote a pack or swarm of animals or insects) may have come from the verb rabel which meant “to babble” (despite the similarity in sound and meaning, however, babble and rabble are linguistically unrelated). The verb rabel is related to Middle Dutch rabbelen and Low German rabbeln, meaning “to speak rapidly or indistinctly” or “to chatter.” So how do we get from babbling to crowds of people? The connecting link may be the idea of confusion. Rabble, in its earliest uses, could indicate a pack of animals, a swarm of insects, or a confused collection of things, in addition to a confused or meaningless string of words.
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The university chancellor required extra security to help get him through the rabble of protestors.
“Perhaps most importantly, since prescriptive rules are so psychologically unnatural that only those with access to the right schooling can abide by them, they serve as shibboleths, differentiating the elite from the rabble.” — Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct, 1994