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

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 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

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 Market shockwaves: Stock markets around the world dropped sharply Monday as investors braced for a further ratcheting up in the US-China trade war. Charles Riley, CNN, "Yuan skids lower; Market shockwaves; HSBC CEO out," 5 Aug. 2019 That likely means some ratcheting up of the privacy and app blocking options Facebook offers today under its Settings. Mike Snider, USA TODAY, "Facebook-FTC deal means a $5B fine for social network, but not much on face for users," 25 July 2019 Emotions were already running high on an electric night at Flushing Meadows but were then ratcheted up a notch by organizers as a montage of Nadal's illustrious career was shown ahead of the trophy presentation. Ben Church And Don Riddell, CNN, "Rafael Nadal reduced to tears after winning 'unforgettable' US Open title," 9 Sep. 2019 Sequin is hardly a chatterbox, but the actor is wonderfully expressive, capturing both the character’s pouting self-assurance and his ratcheting frazzlement. Harry Windsor, The Hollywood Reporter, "'Sequin in a Blue Room': Film Review | Outfest 2019," 22 July 2019 The media continues to ratchet it up, the verbal assaults against the president and everyone in this administration. Fox News, "Eric Trump: Hypocrisy of the media is really incredible," 3 Aug. 2018 The pilot starts with tension at a seven and ratchets it up as the episode goes along, rarely pausing between professional and personal emergencies. Kelly Lawler, USA TODAY, "Review: Fox's first responder drama '9-1-1' is an intense ride," 1 Jan. 2018 When the tension ratchets up during the postseason in October, his hugs may become more important than ever. James Wagner, New York Times, "Need a Hug? Just Ask the Yankees’ Cameron Maybin," 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

5 Sep 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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