1 of 2


ratch·​et ˈra-chət How to pronounce ratchet (audio)
variants or less commonly rachet
: 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
: a pawl or detent for holding or propelling a toothed wheel


2 of 2


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

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
Meanwhile, ribs are devoured, beer is guzzled and, when conflict ratchets up, shots are thrown back. Charles McNulty, Los Angeles Times, 8 Apr. 2024 Disappointed climate activists will be pushing to turn the ratchet further as soon as politics permit. The Editors, National Review, 11 Mar. 2024 In 2023, ratchet party rap reemerged in popularity, and Sexyy led the charge with music and energy reminiscent of iconic voices like Waka Flocka Flame and Chief Keef. Kyle Denis, Billboard, 9 Jan. 2024 On May 17, Aubrey Scaletta, her dad and twin sister were driving home from gymnastics practice when a portion of the ratchet strap that Aubrey was playing with flew out of the truck's window and attached itself to the drive shaft. David Chiu, Peoplemag, 26 Dec. 2023 The coming of congestion pricing ratchets up the urgency of that transformation. Justin Davidson, Curbed, 12 Dec. 2023 The third season ratchets up the contrast between Slough House and its glitzy counterpart, the Park, where the agents are in good standing, the lights are bright and the staff is stylish, safe and well-funded. Lili Loofbourow, Washington Post, 29 Nov. 2023 Nightlife in Tampa is more ratchet and just fun and spontaneous. Nia Decaille, New York Times, 11 Nov. 2023 The pop-out roof panel is now attached with three hand levers rather than four bolts and a ratchet wrench. Csaba Csere, Car and Driver, 7 Sep. 2023
This was a direct provocation to the Somali leadership in Mogadishu and ratcheted up tensions between Somalia and Somaliland. Alex De Waal, Foreign Affairs, 8 Apr. 2024 But as violence has ratcheted up in the last several months, the United Nations’ latest plan — drafted by the United States and Ecuador — is to send Kenyan troops in to police Haiti. Char Adams, NBC News, 28 Mar. 2024 Soon after Star Garden reopened, dancers told The Times that drink prices had ratcheted up, the bar had gone cashless and removed its ATM and management was discouraging customers from tipping with cash. Suhauna Hussain, Los Angeles Times, 26 Mar. 2024 In each scenario, Frick slowly ratchets up the suspense, introducing supporting characters whose relevance takes time to unfold: the girls’ mother, who’s suffering from dementia; their estranged father; and two boyfriends and a husband who may or may not be up to something creepy. Sarah Lyall, New York Times, 24 Feb. 2024 In an election year, this debate will only ratchet up as politicians take sides, Eberle added. Byallie Garfinkle, Fortune, 12 Feb. 2024 In the draft of the rule, auto companies could only meet the gradually ratcheting zero-emissions goals by selling more battery-electric cars. Aarian Marshall, WIRED, 25 Mar. 2024 That windfall could land in Trump's lap at a time when his financial pressures are ratcheting up. Aimee Picchi, CBS News, 22 Mar. 2024 Anxiety over commercial real estate ratcheted up last month when New York Community Bank disclosed unanticipated losses on real estate loans that were tied to office and apartment buildings, sending its stock plunging. Alan Rappeport, New York Times, 14 Mar. 2024

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'ratchet.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History



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

First Known Use


1654, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1972, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

Time Traveler
The first known use of ratchet was in 1654

Dictionary Entries Near ratchet

Cite this Entry

“Ratchet.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ratchet. Accessed 21 Apr. 2024.

Kids Definition


: a mechanical device that consists of a bar or wheel having slanted teeth into which a pawl drops so as to allow motion in one direction only
: pawl

More from Merriam-Webster on ratchet

Last Updated: - Updated example sentences
Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!