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 Republican tax policy is a one-way ratchet: Cuts are allowed and encouraged, preferably at the top of the scale. Jared Bernstein, Vox, "We can’t fund the progressive agenda by taxing the 1% alone," 2 Aug. 2019 Prescott and James spent a lot of time talking about removing king bolts, using ratchet straps, and whether 2-by-8s were sturdy enough. David Brooks, BostonGlobe.com, "A historic Concord carriage finds a new home in New Hampshire," 26 Aug. 2019 Author, journalist, and love-expert-next-door Demetria L. Lucas warmed out hearts last night with a story that was no parts ratchet, all parts respectable. Shalwah Evans, Essence, "This Beauty Influencer's Dad Just Made Us Gush With How He Shows His Support," 25 July 2019 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 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Brokers report price drops on some properties, as sellers have been forced to ratchet down expectations. Louis Hansen, The Mercury News, "Bay Area home sales tumble to recession levels," 26 July 2019 And lawmakers in both parties applauded the deal for ratcheting down the budget brinkmanship that characterized the first years of the Trump administration and led to the nation's longest government shutdown, 35 days, this winter. Author: Erica Werner, Damian Paletta, Anchorage Daily News, "House passes two-year budget deal to lift spending, suspend debt ceiling," 25 July 2019 As the story unfolded that the murder was related to homophobia and anti-Semitism, well then the anger in the community and the anxiety ratcheted up. CBS News, "Blaze Bernstein murder: Was an Ivy League student slain in the name of hate?," 20 July 2019 The Art of Self-Defense is a fascinating work that feels at times like live theater, with dramatic tension ratcheted up to 11. Alissa Wilkinson, Vox, "Jesse Eisenberg on the “aspirational and also absurd” manliness in his new movie," 12 July 2019 Perhaps this is why the Sanders bill suggests an ambition to ratchet down even further payments made to people who heal us. James Freeman, WSJ, "The BernieCare Bust," 28 June 2019 Democrats claimed the number of beds would be ratcheted down to 40,520. Andrew Taylor, The Seattle Times, "Congressional lawmakers reach deal on border wall funding," 11 Feb. 2019 Saban’s success and skyrocketing salaries have sent the expectations, and the pressure, ratcheting ever higher. George Schroeder, USA TODAY, "In high-pressure SEC, it's Nick Saban and a revolving door of coaches," 30 May 2018 And in the case of police, prosecutors in most states already can turn to laws that ratchet up penalties for attacks on emergency responders. Rob Kuznia, Washington Post, "As hate crime laws expand, who to exclude as victims?," 12 Sep. 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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Statistics for ratchet

Last Updated

31 Oct 2019

Time Traveler for ratchet

The first known use of ratchet was in 1654

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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

Comments on ratchet

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a calculated move

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