rum·mage / ˈrəmij/ • v. [intr.] search unsystematically and untidily through a mass or receptacle: he rummaged in his pocket for a handkerchief | [tr.] he rummaged the drawer for his false teeth. ∎ [tr.] find (something) by searching in this way: Mick rummaged up his skateboard. ∎ [tr.] (of a customs officer) make a thorough search of (a vessel): our brief was to rummage as many of the vessels as possible.• n. an unsystematic and untidy search through a mass or receptacle. ∎ a thorough search of a vessel by a customs officer.DERIVATIVES: rum·mag·er n.ORIGIN: late 15th cent.: from Old French arrumage, from arrumer ‘stow (in a hold),’ from Middle Dutch ruim ‘room.’ In early use the word referred to the arranging of items such as casks in the hold of a ship, giving rise (early 17th cent.) to the verb sense ‘make a search of (a vessel).’
Hence vb. †stow in the hold, †set (a ship) in order; search (orig. the hold), also intr. XVI.