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 downtried 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 The clamps come off easily with a ratchet and socket and two guys can lift the deck on or off the boat. Michael R. Shea, Outdoor Life, "Build the Ultimate Bowfishing Boat," 15 Apr. 2020 Finally, the surfaces of the actual ratchet are a consideration. The Editors, Field & Stream, "Three Keys to Selecting the Right Ratchet Straps for the Job," 9 Apr. 2020 The Vanderpump Rules cast is known for being a bit immature, and well, kind of ratchet. Olivia Harrison, refinery29.com, "Here’s Where All The Vanderpump Rules Cast Members Live," 8 Jan. 2020 Head gear suitable for chainsaw work should feature an adjustable band or ratchet system for a custom fit. The Editors, Outdoor Life, "Three Reasons to Use a Chainsaw Helmet," 19 Nov. 2019 The first round of ratchet talks will take place in Glasgow next November. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "UN report card: Carbon-emissions cuts are way behind schedule," 27 Nov. 2019 Stanley is investing $90 million to open a plant in Fort Worth, Texas, by late next year that will employ about 500 people to make 10 million Craftsman wrenches and ratchets and 50 million sockets annually. Bob Tita, WSJ, "Stanley to Make More Craftsman Tools in U.S.," 15 May 2019 The music exists not within a binary—ratchet or classy, whole or broken, complicated or simple—but as all of those things at once. Briana Younger, The New Yorker, "Summer Walker’s Sex-Positive R. & B.," 22 Oct. 2019 That’s just another one-way ratchet against smokers. Jon Caldara, The Denver Post, "Caldara: When local control just goes one way — that’s not local control," 11 Oct. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb And a White House report due out this month also found Beijing’s lack of transparency a threat to U.S. interests, officials said, in a sign of ratcheting-up rivalry between the Trump administration and Beijing. NBC News, "China in the global spotlight as its annual political congress gets underway," 18 May 2020 The case comes against a backdrop of money-laundering scandals in the Nordic region, with regulators ratcheting up compliance requirements. Leo Laikola, Bloomberg.com, "Russian Billionaire Loses Lawsuit Against Nordic Banks," 5 May 2020 The key is finding safe ways to continue to load your fingers at home without ratcheting up your pre-pandemic volume or intensity. Hayden Carpenter, Outside Online, "At-Home Strength Training for Rock Climbing," 6 Apr. 2020 As people rush to buy canned food and other nonperishable items, big consumer goods companies are trying to meet demand without needlessly ratcheting up production. Danielle Wiener-bronner, CNN, "How grocery stores restock shelves in the age of coronavirus," 20 Mar. 2020 Those targets ratcheted up pressure to find problems that might not even exist, former employees said. Indianapolis Star, "'Drilling perfectly healthy teeth': Some Indiana dentists pressured to profit, insiders say," 19 Mar. 2020 The Iranian regime has blamed the Trump administration for ratcheting up tensions with the controversial decision to kill senior Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in a January 2 drone strike in Baghdad. CBS News, "Iran says U.S. bears blame for Iranian forces shooting down plane," 15 Jan. 2020 Sanders has distinguished himself from the rest of the Democratic 2020 primary field by ripping the Trump administration for ratcheting up tensions in the Middle East. Naomi Lim, Washington Examiner, "Sanders invites more Trump swipes: 'Our campaign is the campaign that can and will defeat them'," 11 Jan. 2020 After ratcheting up restrictions on application of chlorpyrifos products over the past last several years, the state opted this year to revoke product registrations — effectively a ban. Geoffrey Mohan, Los Angeles Times, "Chemical companies agree to end fight over pesticide ban," 9 Oct. 2019

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

1 May 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ratchet.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ratchet. Accessed 3 Jun. 2020.

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More Definitions for ratchet


How to pronounce ratchet (audio)

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on ratchet

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with ratchet

Spanish Central: Translation of ratchet

Nglish: Translation of ratchet for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ratchet

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