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

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 The former Destiny’s Child frontwoman has long been known for telling tales out of school, bringing legit gospel-style singing to the ratchet unwashed masses. Will Dukes, Rolling Stone, 29 July 2022 The ratchet lock allows the head to move up freely, but not down until the lever is released. Talon Homer, Popular Mechanics, 17 June 2022 There are only two pads included, so ratchet straps will have to be purchased separately. Talon Homer, Popular Mechanics, 20 May 2022 And Roe lasted half a century, which helped create the impression of a historical ratchet of human and civil rights. Philip Cohen, The New Republic, 3 May 2022 The Supreme Court’s Brnovich decision last spring, for example, required a holistic look at a state’s voting practices in Section 2 cases rather than tying states narrowly into a one-way ratchet on every single aspect of their voting laws. Dan Mclaughlin, National Review, 23 Feb. 2022 This was achieved by mounting a nitrogen cannon in the rear of the Defender which was initialized simultaneously to a ratchet stop connected to the front of the vehicle. Jazz Tangcay, Variety, 28 Jan. 2022 What if the ratchet slips, and rising popular hostility to arbitrary, petty, overbearing and ineffective rules induces a popular backlash? Gerard Baker, WSJ, 31 Jan. 2022 On the set of Transformers: Bumblebee, my stunt team and I were all standing there one day on set getting ready for a big ratchet sequence with explosions and all that fun stuff. Greg Presto, Men's Health, 27 Jan. 2022 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In fact, the leaders of Europe and President Biden were trying to ratchet down tensions before all this. David Remnick, The New Yorker, 1 Mar. 2022 His statement, along with a declaration from Russian military officials that some troops near the Ukrainian border would soon return to their bases, could be signals to ratchet down tensions in Europe. Fred Weir, The Christian Science Monitor, 15 Feb. 2022 The heat will ratchet up just days after the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) twice issued conservation appeals (Monday and Wednesday), its power supply pushed to the brink. Jason Samenow, Washington Post, 14 July 2022 As Western countries continue to ratchet up sanctions and boycotts against Russia, the country's citizens are panic-buying medicines, such as antidepressants, sleeping pills, and contraceptives, according to Reuters. Beth Mole, Ars Technica, 25 Mar. 2022 This article, part of a series on breaking the unwritten rules of healthcare, details how biopharma companies continue to ratchet up drug prices and generate outsized profit margins year after year—and what can be done about it. Robert Pearl, Forbes, 29 June 2022 Iran has already sought to pressure the U.S. to persuade the Israelis to ratchet back their strikes. Michael R. Gordon, WSJ, 16 June 2022 The national average for a gallon of regular gasoline crossed the $5 mark, a psychological threshold that could cut into summer vacation plans and likely will continue to ratchet up demand for electric vehicles — and ride sharing services. Frank Witsil, Detroit Free Press, 13 June 2022 The emotional turmoil continues to ratchet up as the season speeds toward its end when her ex-husband and Delilah’s father (Stephen Bishop) begins to question the nature of her work and their daughter’s safety in her care. Angelique Jackson, Variety, 13 May 2022 See More

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.

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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Dictionary Entries Near ratchet

rat cheese


ratchet brace

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Statistics for ratchet

Last Updated

2 Aug 2022

Cite this Entry

“Ratchet.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ratchet. Accessed 9 Aug. 2022.

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More from Merriam-Webster on ratchet

Nglish: Translation of ratchet for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ratchet


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