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 An unidentified man stole power tools – including an impact wrench, impact driver and 12-volt ratchet – at about 9:45 a.m. Dec. 29 from O’Reilly Auto Parts, 14771 Snow. Bob Sandrick, cleveland, "Man dies in accidental shooting; 24-pack of beer stolen from porch: Brook Park police blotter," 9 Jan. 2021 The accord also contained a ratchet mechanism, by which countries must submit new national plans every five years, to bring them in line with the long-term goal, and the first deadline is now looming on December 31. Fiona Harvey, Wired, "Can the Paris Agreement Still Avert Climate Chaos?," 26 Dec. 2020 The deal doesn’t include a ratchet mechanism that would force the U.K. to stiffen its rule in lockstep with the EU. Fortune, "The key terms of the Brexit trade deal: Everything you need to know," 25 Dec. 2020 The ratchet mechanism requires that every five years parties to the agreement come forward with more ambitious national climate goals, taking into consideration the technological, economic and social progress of the intervening years. The Economist, "Paris-anniversary climate pledges bring progress but fall short," 13 Dec. 2020 For example, on the level playing field, the EU is pushing for ratchet clauses, which would require Britain to keep up with changes in EU laws in areas including environment and social protection. Joe Mayes, Bloomberg.com, "With Tories at His Back, Boris Johnson Can’t Cave in on Brexit," 12 Dec. 2020 Secure the tree at its bottom, center and top using strong rope or nylon ratchet straps. Paul Gattis | Pgattis@al.com, al, "Driving with a Christmas tree on your car? It’s not as easy and safe as you think," 12 Dec. 2020 Illinois voters have the chance to avoid what would be an inevitable progressive tax ratchet moving ever higher by defeating the Pritzker-union referendum and maintaining a flat tax. The Editorial Board, WSJ, "Congrats, Illinois, You’ll Be 47th!," 12 Oct. 2020 As Robert Higgs noted in his classic 1987 analysis of government expansion, Crisis and Leviathan, there is a ratchet effect. Andrew Stuttaford, National Review, "The Capital Note: 13F Reform & the UK Economy," 22 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Other interest groups quickly seized on the Georgia results to ratchet up the pressure on Biden to make good on his campaign promises. Michael D. Shear And Jim Tankersley, BostonGlobe.com, "Biden denounces storming of Capitol as a ‘dark moment’ in nation’s history," 6 Jan. 2021 As tensions with Iran ratchet up during the final days of Donald Trump’s presidency, thousands of Iraqis gathered in Baghdad's central square on Sunday to mark the anniversary of the U.S. killing of a top Iranian general. NBC News, "U.S., Iran tensions simmer as thousands protest Soleimani's killing in Iraq," 3 Jan. 2021 For the $400-billion chip industry, Biden’s win probably will ratchet down a trade war between the U.S. and China. Kevin Miller And Melinda Grenier, oregonlive, "Here are the business sectors that will thrive, dive under Biden administration," 15 Nov. 2020 In the months that remain before Biden’s inauguration, the Trump administration, backed by the Saudis, Israelis and Emiratis, may ratchet up punitive measures on Tehran to make Biden’s path toward rapprochement even more difficult. Washington Post, "Trump’s defeat is a blow for the world’s demagogues and dictators," 10 Nov. 2020 Consumers may choose to stay home to protect their and others’ health, and government officials may feel forced to ratchet up restrictions to contain the spread of the virus. John Detrixhe, Quartz, "The global economy news the US election overshadowed," 6 Nov. 2020 In contrast to a conventional nuclear power plant, the Natrium plant could quickly ratchet up or down its total output even as its reactor continues to run steadily and efficiently. Adrian Cho, Science | AAAS, "Department of Energy picks two advanced nuclear reactors for demonstration projects," 16 Oct. 2020 The Republican seeking to unseat U.S. Rep. Joe Cunningham has outraised the freshman Democrat in the final fundraising quarter before their general election matchup, as both candidates ratchet up their rhetoric in the campaign's closing weeks. Meg Kinnard, Star Tribune, "GOP challenger fundraising tops South Carolina's Cunningham," 1 Oct. 2020 Trump had vowed to ratchet up immigration enforcement but ultimately fell short of his goals. Washington Post, "Deportations of migrant families spiked in 2020," 24 Dec. 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

22 Jan 2021

Cite this Entry

“Ratchet.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ratchet. Accessed 27 Jan. 2021.

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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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