ratchet

noun
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

ratchet

verb
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

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 As with most unfounded conspiracy theories spewing from this ratchet administration, Trump pushed this nonsense on Twitter, claiming that Mueller’s team is made up of Democrats and one corrupt Republican (Mueller), Yahoo! Stephen A. Crockett Jr., The Root, "Trump’s Latest Conspiracy Theory Might Be His Craziest Yet," 29 May 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

President Donald Trump has approved tariffs on Chinese goods worth about $50 billion, said a person familiar with the decision, ratcheting up a confrontation on trade with Beijing and triggering losses in the domestic stock market. Fortune, "Trump Has Approved $50 Billion in China Tariffs as the Superpowers Inch Toward a Trade War," 15 June 2018 The larger question is whether Kushner’s plan fails quietly, or ratchets up tensions in the region. Jen Kirby, Vox, "The 7 biggest foreign news stories to watch in 2019, from Brexit to North Korea," 24 Dec. 2018 Trump's decision could ratchet up tensions in the already volatile Middle East, strain relations with U.S. allies in Europe, complicate dealings with Russia and China, and undermine Trump's efforts to get North Korea to give up its nuclear arsenal. Tracy Wilkinson, latimes.com, "Trump pulls U.S. out of Iran nuclear deal and announces sweeping new economic sanctions," 8 May 2018 Accusations that Kremlin meddling may have helped Trump win the 2016 election and conflict over Syria, Ukraine and arms control are gradually ratcheting up tensions. Henry Meyer, Bloomberg.com, "Putin Praises Trump as Ready Partner, Blasts U.S. ‘System’," 7 Mar. 2018 Officials began to ratchet up the amount of water released as an evacuation plan went underway. David Grossman, Popular Mechanics, "The Oroville Dam Almost Flooded Northern California. Now It's Working Again.," 3 Apr. 2019 If political tensions keep ratcheting higher, Aussie coal might suffer for a while—but a sustained ban would make other Chinese policy goals very difficult to achieve. Nathaniel Taplin, WSJ, "China Still Needs Your Coal, Australia," 22 Feb. 2019 The Teamsters union at UPS has voted to authorize a strike if necessary, a negotiating tactic that’s aimed at ratcheting up the pressure in contract negotiations but does not signal a strike is imminent. Kelly Yamanouchi, ajc, "Teamsters union ratchets up pressure in UPS contract negotiations," 5 June 2018 With little more than two months to go before that deadline, companies are ratcheting up their Brexit preparations. Max Colchester, WSJ, "Airbus CEO Calls Brexit Talks a ‘Disgrace’," 24 Jan. 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.

See More

First Known Use of ratchet

Noun

1654, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Verb

1972, in the meaning defined at transitive sense

History and Etymology for ratchet

Noun

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

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about ratchet

Statistics for ratchet

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for ratchet

The first known use of ratchet was in 1654

See more words from the same year

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for ratchet

ratchet

noun

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

ratchet

verb

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

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

Keep scrolling for more

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

Comments on ratchet

What made you want to look up ratchet? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).

WORD OF THE DAY

using a distributed computer network

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Time Traveler Quiz: Which Word Came First?

  • time traveler quiz which word came first
  • Which came first?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!

TAKE THE QUIZ
SCRABBLE® Sprint

Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.

TAKE THE QUIZ
Love words? Need even more definitions?

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