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 One of the achievements of the Trump administration was in slowing (if not, sadly, reversing) the regulatory ratchet. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The Capital Letter: Week of November 2," 6 Nov. 2020 The biggest improvement to the platform is the R29X’s new cocking system, which eliminates the previous models' signature boat-trailer-ratchet sound that could be heard plainly on a still morning from 100 yards away. Will Brantley, Outdoor Life, "The Bow Test: Our Picks for the Best New Bows and Crossbows of the Year," 15 Sep. 2020 This is the only balm in California’s oppressive tax climate and acts as a modest restraint on the government spending ratchet. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "California’s Next Big Tax Gulp," 14 Oct. 2020 These gloves are not bulky and their supple quality provides very good dexterity using a cordless drill, hammer, and, to a limited extent, a ratchet. Roy Berendsohn, Popular Mechanics, "The Best Work Gloves for Cold Winter Months," 23 Sep. 2020 Ascend the sticks to secure the stand’s platform strap (often a ratchet) and install the safety line. Scott Bestul, Field & Stream, "The Complete Guide to Hunting Deer from a Treestand," 11 Sep. 2020 There’s no end to the practicality of the ratchet puller, also known as a come-along or a power puller. The Editors, Field & Stream, "Three Things to Consider Before Buying a Ratchet Puller," 14 Sep. 2020 But what emerged represented quite a few turns in the ratchet of the EU’s integration. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The EU’s Slow, Sneaky Attempt to Engineer a Fiscal Union," 18 Aug. 2020 Instructions were clear and easy to follow and bonus came with an Allen key ratchet tool, which made the job even faster! Courtney Thompson, CNN Underscored, "The most beloved beds on Wayfair under $700," 4 Aug. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Tensions between the Ethiopian federal government and Tigray leaders started to ratchet up in September after the TPLF claimed an overwhelming victory in a regional election which was not recognized by Addis Ababa. Samuel Getachew, Quartz Africa, "Ethiopia is pushing to change the Tigray government as the threat of civil war grows," 7 Nov. 2020 Only when freshman Sahvir Wheeler finally assumed the bulk of the point-guard duties did Edwards start to cut down on mistakes, ratchet up his defensive intensity and improve his shot selection. Connor Letourneau, SFChronicle.com, "Could Warriors draft the next Dwyane Wade? Anthony Edwards says he could be better," 6 Nov. 2020 The shooting and its aftermath were guaranteed to ratchet up tensions in a country already on edge. New York Times, "Days From Election, Police Killing of Black Man Roils Philadelphia," 28 Oct. 2020 Every year manufacturers seem to ratchet up their pickups’ power and capabilities. Jeff Yip, Houston Chronicle, "Ford next-generation 2021 F-150s just around the corner," 16 Oct. 2020 But while legally dangerous, politically this ambiguity — along with the deadline of Inauguration Day — only serves to ratchet up the pressure to fold. Daniel Larsen, Star Tribune, "What happens if neither Trump nor Biden concedes?," 2 Nov. 2020 Attorney Kim Foxx’s office has sought the reports as part of a grand jury investigation could also ratchet up pressure on Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot to release the full IG report. Megan Crepeau, chicagotribune.com, "Grand jury subpoena indicates prosecutors investigating former Chicago police Superintendent Eddie Johnson’s controversial night of drinking," 23 Oct. 2020 Amid the disarray, Brennan said, Russia and China may be looking at ways to ratchet their regional aggression and hoping the U.S. is too consumed with Trump's health to respond. Deirdre Shesgreen, USA TODAY, "Why the Russians may know more about Trump's health and COVID diagnosis than the American public," 7 Oct. 2020 In two post–Cold War mass atrocities — those in Rwanda and Bosnia in the 1990s — the State Department worried that a finding of genocide would ratchet up political pressure to act. Jimmy Quinn, National Review, "The Uyghur Genocide," 3 Sep. 2020

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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Time Traveler for ratchet

Time Traveler

The first known use of ratchet was in 1654

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Statistics for ratchet

Last Updated

17 Nov 2020

Cite this Entry

“Ratchet.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ratchet. Accessed 28 Nov. 2020.

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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

More from Merriam-Webster on ratchet

Nglish: Translation of ratchet for Spanish Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about ratchet

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