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 Even new steakhouses play along, though their offerings tend to ratchet up the absurdity even more. Nick Kindelsperger, chicagotribune.com, "What happened to side dishes? Invisible at trendy restaurants, they’re still going strong at Chicago’s steakhouses," 31 Oct. 2019 Installing the software — by using rock-climbing equipment to ratchet himself up a rope, nearly 200 feet into the treetops — went smoothly enough despite the stifling heat and the leeches that crawled into his boots. Mike Ives, New York Times, "Using Old Cellphones to Listen for Illegal Loggers," 20 Oct. 2019 And the growing Prometheus threat just continues to ratchet up the tension — if Church is that terrified of this guy, then Oliver truly has no idea what’s coming. Sydney Bucksbaum, EW.com, "We ranked every episode of Arrow," 15 Oct. 2019 That may change in a few months when MR plans to offer other investors a chance to buy in, enabling the company to ratchet up its sales and marketing efforts. David Holahan, courant.com, "Movia Robotics: Teaching robots to teach," 15 Oct. 2019 While truck manufacturers have toiled to ratchet up both, realistic miles per gallon numbers are just as vital as truck buyers aim for that sweet spot, balancing work capabilities and operational costs. Jeff Yip, Houston Chronicle, "2020 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel gets up to 32 mpg," 11 Oct. 2019 When the media was allowed into practice, Leonard seemed to have ratcheted up his workouts. Los Angeles Times, "Clippers’ Kawhi Leonard and Lou Williams challenge each other during scrimmage," 9 Oct. 2019 While the administration has refused to cooperate, Democrats have continued to ratchet up their demands. NBC News, "White House refuses to turn over documents to Democrats in impeachment inquiry," 8 Oct. 2019 However, the squad player role would be a hard sell for such a senior player, and Daniel Levy would also be keen to ratchet up the asking price should a Premier League rival come knocking. SI.com, "Five Left Backs Liverpool Should Consider as Alternatives to Andy Robertson," 29 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

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


something of little or no value

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