General English


  • noun a sexual act. The word is pronounced with a long ‘a’, perhaps in imitation of french. An item of student slang in use in London and elsewhere since around 2000.
  • verb to raid and/or search (premises). The specialised sense, deriving from the standard colloquialism, has been used by police and criminals since the 1990s.

Origin & History of “rummage”

Rummage is etymologically ‘roomage’. It originally denoted the ‘stowage of cargo in a ship’s hold’. It came from Anglo-Norman *rumage, a reduced form of Old French arrumage. This was derived from the verb arrumer ‘stow in a hold’, which itself was based on run ‘ship’s hold’. And this in turn was borrowed from middle Dutch ruim ‘space’, a relative of English room. The verb rummage, derived from the noun, was also used for ‘search a ship’s hold’, which is where the modern notion of ‘rummaging around’ comes from.