Word Confusion: Ravage versus Ravish

Posted March 17, 2012 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

Revised as of 7 October 2017

It’s destruction versus overwhelming acts.

I always feel so sorry for the heroine who is being “ravaged” in a book. I can never figure out if she’s picked up on a really gritty facial scrub and applied it too vigorously or she’s being beaten to death or viciously raped.

On the other hand, ravish is an odd word. It ranges from fill with joy, delight, charm, captivate, and attract to rape. Do note, however, that ravage never encompasses any delight. Well, except that of the soldier, rioter, or force of nature intent on destruction.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Ravage Ravish
Credit to: Apple Dictionary.com; Merriam-Webster: ravage; Encarta® World English Dictionary © 1999 Microsoft Corporation

Overturned and burned-out vehicles and debris everywhere on a street in Amsterdam

“Onlusten in Amsterdam, ravage voor Telegraafgebouw” by Jac. de Nijs, courtesy of Fotocollectie Anefo. and the Nationaal Archief, is under the CC BY-SA 3.0 nl license, via Wikimedia Commons

The 1966 riots in Amsterdam ravaged the Telegraph Building.

Carlisle Wall (The Lovers) is a Rossetti painting

Carlisle Wall (The Lovers) is by Dante Gabriel Rossetti is in the public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

This is a “ravish” I can get into.

Part of Grammar:
Verb, intransitive & transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: ravages
Past tense or past participle: ravaged
Gerund or Present participle: ravaging

Verb, transitive

Plural for the noun and third person present verb: ravishes
Past tense or past participle: ravished
Gerund or Present participle: ravishing

Act or habit of destroying or plundering something

  • Acts of destruction

Severely damaging or disfiguring effects of something, especially time

Verb, intransitive:
To commit destructive actions
Wreck or utterly destroy something through a violent onslaught of some kind

Plunder or sack a place or area

Verb, transitive:
Cause severe and extensive damage to

To wreak havoc on

Affect destructively

[Archaic] Carry something or someone off by violent force

Force someone to engage in sexual intercourse

[Literary] Overwhelm someone with deep and pleasurable feelings or emotions
His face had withstood the ravages of time.

The ravages of smog badly affects public buildings made of stone.

He bemoaned the ravages committed by man.

Verb, intransitive:
Hurricane Andrew ravaged Louisiana and Florida in 1992, causing $19 billion in damage.

Verb, transitive:
The country feared that a war could ravage their country.

The tsunami ravaged the Indonesian coastline.

Napoleon’s armies ravaged the countryside.

She had the most ravishing features.

He ravished her with his eyes.

The conquering soldiers ravished most of the females in the city.

Ravished by a sunny afternoon, she had agreed without even thinking.

Noun: ravagement, ravager Noun: ravisher, ravishment
History of the Word:
First known use: circa 1611

Early 17th century from the French ravager, from the earlier ravage and an alteration of ravine meaning rush of water.

First known use: 14th century

Middle English from the Old French raviss-, a lengthened stem of ravir, from an alteration of the Latin rapere meaning seize or rob.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…comment on which words are your pet peeves?

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Pinterest Photo Credits

Another image for which I can’t find the source. If anyone knows who I can credit, let me know.