ratch·​et | \ ˈra-chət How to pronounce ratchet (audio) \
variants: or less commonly

Definition of ratchet

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a mechanism that consists of a bar or wheel having inclined teeth into which a pawl drops so that motion can be imparted to the wheel or bar, governed, or prevented and that is used in a hand tool (such as a wrench or screwdriver) to allow effective motion in one direction only
2 : a pawl or detent for holding or propelling a toothed wheel


variants: or less commonly rachet
ratcheted also racheted; ratcheting also racheting; ratchets also rachets

Definition of ratchet (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

: to cause to move by steps or degrees usually used with up or down tried to ratchet down the debt

intransitive verb

: to proceed by steps or degrees

Examples of ratchet in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun One irony of ratchet loans, is that the investors get paid more if the companies fail to meet their objectives. Paul J. Davies, WSJ, "Deluge of Debt Is Tied to Carbon Emissions and Diversity," 4 May 2021 Professional Craftmanship: Professional effort saving ratchet type pressing technology. Maren Estrada, BGR, "10 hidden Amazon deals that only Prime members can unlock," 14 Apr. 2021 While ratchet straps are fine for small trailers or lightweight goods, their durability and strength are limited. Bob Beacham, chicagotribune.com, "The best load binder," 15 Mar. 2021 This is very durable, as it is made from 42′ x 2″ slackline webbing and 8′ x 2″ ratchet webbing. Chris Hachey, BGR, "Best Gym Climbing Rope," 26 Mar. 2021 This could be the start of a regulatory ratchet effect. Alexander William Salter And Daniel J. Smith, WSJ, "End the Fed’s Mission Creep," 25 Mar. 2021 Developed by professional gardeners with more than 30 years of experience, the shears use a spring-free ratchet and leverage mechanism to cut through branches up to one inch thick with much less effort (and pain) than traditional pruners. Stephanie Perry, Better Homes & Gardens, "These Top-Rated Pruning Shears Are So Easy to Use, People with Arthritis Can Garden with Them for Hours," 10 Mar. 2021 The astronauts had to use a ratchet wrench to deal with the more stubborn bolts, which slowed them down. Marcia Dunn, Chron, "Spacewalking astronauts prep station for new solar wings," 28 Feb. 2021 The most common load binder in use today is the ratchet kind. Bob Beacham, chicagotribune.com, "The best load binder," 15 Mar. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb By November, the U.N. climate negotiating process calls for 200 nations to ratchet up commitments to cut emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases by 2030. Seth Borenstein, ajc, "Summit catapults world ahead in crucial year to curb warming," 24 Apr. 2021 President Joe Biden has promised to ratchet up fuel economy standards and push increasing electric vehicle adoption as part of his aggressive climate change agenda. Josh Siegel, Washington Examiner, "Biden moves to restore California's power to set stricter emissions limits for cars," 26 Apr. 2021 Don’t spin a sob story or ratchet up the excuses even if a Black Swan event did somehow cause your delay. Mark Antonio Wright, National Review, "‘How Do I Ask for an Extension on a Blown Deadline?’," 25 Apr. 2021 The period between the mid-1960s and early-1980s is often known as The Great Inflation and saw US CPI ratchet up from just over 1% in 1964 to peak at more than 14% in 1980. Steven Desmyter, Forbes, "Will Inflation Revive The American Dream?," 20 Apr. 2021 The researchers make the case that California must ratchet up its ambitions dramatically, and immediately. Los Angeles Times, "An Earth Day message for California: Move faster on climate change," 20 Apr. 2021 His ability to guard multiple positions, find open shooters and ratchet up the tempo intrigued Golden State, which had helped hasten the league’s trend toward a positionless brand of basketball. Connor Letourneau, San Francisco Chronicle, "How Juan Toscano-Anderson escaped 'monsters' of his youth to become Oakland's Warrior," 19 Mar. 2021 The spike in buying would ratchet up throughout the pandemic — fueled, in part, by millions of first-time owners, women, and minorities. David Harsanyi, National Review, "Biden Nominates Anti-Gun Fanatic to Run the ATF," 8 Apr. 2021 Complex third-party business arrangements and the widespread use of application programming interfaces (APIs) ratchet up the stakes for downstream data privacy violations, especially in the cloud. Rehan Jalil, Forbes, "Five Questions To Ask Before Migrating Data To The Cloud," 18 Mar. 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'ratchet.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of ratchet


1654, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1972, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for ratchet


alteration of earlier rochet, from French, alteration of Middle French rocquet ratchet, bobbin, of Germanic origin; akin to Old High German rocko distaff — more at rock

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Time Traveler for ratchet

Time Traveler

The first known use of ratchet was in 1654

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Statistics for ratchet

Last Updated

10 May 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ratchet.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ratchet. Accessed 13 May. 2021.

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More Definitions for ratchet



English Language Learners Definition of ratchet

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a device made up of a wheel or bar with many teeth along its edge in between which a piece fits so that the wheel or bar can move only in one direction



English Language Learners Definition of ratchet (Entry 2 of 2)

: to increase or decrease (something) especially by a series of small steps or amounts

More from Merriam-Webster on ratchet

Nglish: Translation of ratchet for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ratchet

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