Definition of ratchet in English:


Syllabification: ratch·et
Pronunciation: /ˈraCHit


  • 1A device consisting of a bar or wheel with a set of angled teeth in which a pawl, cog, or tooth engages, allowing motion in one direction only.
    More example sentences
    • A ratchet is a mechanical device that restricts movement in one direction and allows movement in the opposite direction.
    • I like this position as it means that, if required, you can easily engage or disengage the ratchet with the hand that is holding the rod while playing a fish.
    • Unlike using a ratchet, which allows for only a series of preset pitches, to hold the blades in position, the cam can grip anywhere along the guide are, allowing for very fine adjustments.
  • 1.1A bar or wheel that forms part of a ratchet.
    More example sentences
    • The drive mechanism may comprise a ratchet and pawl.
    • The device was designed and built by chemists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Bologna, and it is the hydrogen bonds that act as locking teeth on a molecular ratchet, controlling the movements of the wheels.
    • In the same area is the lever that engages the ratchet to rotate the cylinder.
  • 2A situation or process that is perceived to be deteriorating or changing steadily in a series of irreversible steps: a one-way ratchet of expanding entitlements
    More example sentences
    • In three major towns in Antrim, the sectarian ratchet is being turned up.
    • That would have given each worker a stake of £100,000 or more, based on the equity ratchet, and a real incentive to drive forward shareholder value.
    • The international and domestic prestige that can be derived from space achievements can best be understood as a series of ratchets on a downward slope.

verb (ratchets, ratcheting, ratcheted)

[with object] Back to top  
  • 1Operate by means of a ratchet.
    More example sentences
    • The researchers aimed to use the brake to ratchet the propeller in only one direction, by executing a series of chemical reactions between blade and brake.
    • Somewhere a Dumpster is ratcheted open by the claws of a black machine.
    • Quickly repeating these jaw movements, the threadsnake ratchets the squirmy prey farther and farther down the hatch.
  • 2 (ratchet something up/down) Cause something to rise (or fall) as a step in what is perceived as a steady and irreversible process: the Bank of Japan ratcheted up interest rates again
    More example sentences
    • The last battle, in particular, really ratchets up the tension.
    • But as the vice president ratchets up his attacks on John Kerry, questions are raised about Cheney himself and his role in a campaign that is coming more into focus.
    • The tension ratchets upwards a notch in each successive movement.


mid 17th century: from French rochet, originally denoting a blunt lance head, later in the sense 'bobbin, ratchet'; related to the base of archaic rock 'quantity of wool on a distaff for spinning'.

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