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

Copying and replacing pieces of their own chromosomes can sometimes boost the effect of beneficial mutations and remove harmful ones, defying Muller’s ratchet. Quanta Magazine, "Ancient Survivors Could Redefine Sex," 19 Nov. 2014 Don't use your torque wrench like a ratchet for disassembly—save it for final assembly. Popular Mechanics Editors, Popular Mechanics, "How to Use a Torque Wrench to Keep Your Car from Flying Apart," 26 Feb. 2019 This suggests the Powell-Clarida Fed won’t be a slave to Phillips Curve calculations that suggest rates must rise in a ratchet when the jobless rate hits a certain level. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "The Fed’s Welcome Rethink," 28 Nov. 2018 Most snowshoes rely on fidgety straps and buckles, but Tubbs Flex VRT attach to your boots with a ratchet-style BOA closure that’s easy to adjust even with thick gloves. Clint Carter, WSJ, "Never Camped in the Snow? You’re Missing Out.," 11 Dec. 2018 Regulation usually functions like a ratchet, so regulators ought to take that into account when assessing its likely costs. WSJ, "Social Engineering Via Cost-Benefit Fiddles," 7 Oct. 2018 The interview, published during a gala dinner May hosted for Trump at Blenheim Palace, appeared to further ratchet up tensions in a relationship that’s been fraught since the president assumed office. Fortune, "Trump Apologizes to May and Vows U.K. Trade Deal After Brexit," 13 July 2018 Another loss would equal the team's longest slide since 2007 and likely ratchet up the pressure on Schmid, who has won just five of 24 games since replacing Curt Onalfo as coach last summer. Kevin Baxter, latimes.com, "Reeling Galaxy need to stop slide in Montreal," 20 May 2018 That jams the transmission’s parking pawl against its ratchet mechanism. Ray Magliozzi, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Weighing the pros and cons of using the parking brake," 29 June 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

That's despite what plays like a pretty significant ratcheting up of the violence quotient, which, even with the kids maturing, doesn't make those scenes any less unpleasant. Brian Lowry, CNN, "'Stranger Things' tackles teen troubles in third season," 3 July 2019 That Winogrand nervy energy — like a grenade going off, only with phenomenal compositional values — gets ratcheted up that much more, thanks to the warmer temperature and greater descriptive power of color. Mark Feeney, BostonGlobe.com, "Garry Winogrand, that master of black-and-white, was a master of color, too," 20 June 2019 But, after that, they were ratcheted back to the rates in the new pension law — making them subject to the same limits as all other public employees in the state. Daniel Borenstein, The Mercury News, "Borenstein: CalPERS must stop transit workers’ pension windfall," 18 June 2019 With Thompson and Durant out, expectations will be ratcheted back. Ann Killion, SFChronicle.com, "Warriors will feature a new look at Chase Center," 14 June 2019 But this ratcheting up of tax breaks, infrastructure, this, that... ridiculous. Wsj Staff, WSJ, "Readers React to Amazon’s New York Reversal," 14 Feb. 2019 The tensions over Afghanistan come as Russia’s ties with Trump’s administration steadily worsen with the ratcheting up of American sanctions over alleged Kremlin interference in the 2016 presidential elections. Henry Meyer, Bloomberg.com, "Talk to Taliban or Fight Endless Afghan War, Russia Tells U.S.," 20 May 2018 Production in Venezuela is plummeting, and an expected ratcheting up of sanctions by the Trump administration could further hamper imports. Clifford Krauss, New York Times, "‘Mexico First’ Campaign Could End Welcome for U.S. Oil Giants," 26 Apr. 2018 Since his father Kim Jong Il died in 2011, the younger Kim’s leadership has been marked by a ratcheting up of nuclear missile tests and strong rhetoric. Suyin Haynes, Time, "As North Korea's Kim Jong Un Makes a Historic Trip to the South, Here's What to Expect," 26 Apr. 2018

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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Statistics for ratchet

Last Updated

11 Jul 2019

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Time Traveler for ratchet

The first known use of ratchet was in 1654

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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

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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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