on the rag

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rag 1

a. A scrap of cloth.
b. A piece of cloth used for cleaning, washing, or dusting.
2. rags Threadbare or tattered clothing.
3. Cloth converted to pulp for making paper.
4. A scrap; a fragment.
5. Slang A newspaper, especially one specializing in sensationalism or gossip.
6. The stringy central portion and membranous walls of a citrus fruit.
on the rag Vulgar Slang
1. Menstruating.
2. Irritable; grouchy.

[Middle English ragge, ultimately (probably partly by back-formation from raggi, shaggy, ragged) of Old Norse origin; akin to Old Icelandic rögg, tuft and Swedish ragg, shaggy hair.]

rag 2

tr.v. ragged, rag·ging, rags
1. Slang
a. To criticize or scold (someone).
b. To criticize or complain about (something).
c. To tease or taunt (someone).
2. Chiefly British To play a joke on.
3. Sports In ice hockey, to maintain possession of (the puck) by outmaneuvering opposing players, especially so as to kill a penalty.
n. Chiefly British
A practical joke; a prank.
Phrasal Verb:
rag on
1. To criticize or scold: ragged on me for being late.
2. To complain about (something).
3. To tease or taunt: ragged on their classmate mercilessly.

[Origin unknown.]

rag 3

1. A roofing slate with one rough surface.
2. Chiefly British A coarsely textured rock.

[Origin unknown.]

rag 4

tr.v. ragged, rag·ging, rags
To compose or play (a piece) in ragtime.
A piece written in ragtime.

[Perhaps from ragged.]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.