Definition of rattle in English:


Syllabification: rat·tle
Pronunciation: /ˈratl


  • 1Make or cause to make a rapid succession of short, sharp knocking sounds, typically as a result of shaking and striking repeatedly against a hard surface or object: [with object]: he rattled some change in his pocket [no object]: there was a sound of bottles rattling as he stacked the crates
    More example sentences
    • To her distress, the person persisted, the door shaking and rattling with his knocks.
    • Then, there was this scratching metallic sound and… the whole elevator shook and rattled.
    • The plan was to build a wall that shook and rattled, simulating an earthquake, complete with sound effects.
  • 1.1 [no object, with adverbial of direction] (Of a vehicle or its driver or passengers) move or travel somewhere while making a rattle: trains rattled past at frequent intervals
    More example sentences
    • Soon, dozens of guests began pouring in, their carriages rattling past the front door and around to the back.
    • The carriage rattled along the narrow, winding streets to Montemarte, where the Basilica of the Sacre Couer lay.
    • Drags of empty coal cars rattle past on their westward run.
    jolt, bump, bounce, jounce, shake
  • 1.2 [no object] (rattle around in) Be in or occupy (an unnecessarily or undesirably spacious room or building).
    More example sentences
    • Well, no need to rattle around in a double room or cabin while being penalised with a single person supplement.
    • The maintenance backlog alone was more than 100 million and there were too few pupils rattling around in too many schools.
    • She said that he had an entire subaquatic palace to rattle around in.


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  • 1A rapid succession of short, sharp, hard sounds: the rattle of teacups on the tray
    More example sentences
    • In the distance there is the rapid rattle of a Kalashnikov.
    • Somewhere around Parliament House, the rattle turned to a clunk.
    • There's the rattle and clang of the air lock opening and closing, and it seems she has worn her lead-weighted diving boots home.
    clatter, clank, clink, clang; jingle, jangle
  • 1.1A gurgling sound in the throat of a dying person.
    More example sentences
    • He laughed and I noticed there was a wheezy rattle in his throat.
    • People take a long time to die, accompanied by the cracking of bone, the resistance of gristle, dire last-gasp gurgles and rattles.
    • Her body went rigid, and the moan became a rattle deep in her throat.
  • 2A thing used to make a rapid succession of short, sharp sounds, in particular.
    More example sentences
    • Traditional musical instruments included rattles, which were prominent in ceremonies.
    • It includes ten leg rattles worn by dancers as both a composite musical instrument and a protective device.
    • The second movement opens with timpani and rattles, followed by almost electronic sounding little looped musical figures that litter all of Glass's compositions.
  • 2.1A baby’s toy consisting of a container filled with small pellets that makes a noise when shaken.
    More example sentences
    • The usual teddies, rattles and baby outfits just weren't good enough for five-week-old Ikra Yaseen.
    • These ideas are alluded to in this affable portrait by the angelic baby grasping a toy rattle while being tenderly held by its mother.
    • Thousands of baby rattles will also be delivered to US senators.
  • 2.2The set of horny rings at the end of a rattlesnake’s tail, shaken with a dry buzzing sound as a warning.
    More example sentences
    • Rattlesnakes shake their tail rattles as aposematic warnings.
    • The forked tongue darted from his lips, and the tip of his tail began the familiar sound of a rattle.


rattle someone's cage

informal Make someone feel angry or annoyed.
More example sentences
  • I should like to ask Tom Lubbock: who rattled your cage?
  • As The Jackhammer rattled my cage with uppercuts and hooks to the temple, I defended myself, but only made a nominal effort to punch back.
  • It appears to have rattled my cage significantly.

rattle sabers

Threaten to take aggressive action. See also saber-rattling.
More example sentences
  • Ministers are also not required to become emotionally involved, or to throw down ultimatums, or to rattle sabers and make dire threats.
  • Why are India and Pakistan still rattling sabres and missiles at one another over Kashmir?
  • But if it was so successful, why are we rattling sabers now?

Phrasal verbs

rattle something off

Say, perform, or produce something quickly and effortlessly: he rattled off some instructions
More example sentences
  • She rattled it off quickly and Zenn put his gun away.
  • Wellman's actors rattled their dialogue off like machine gun fire while Del Ruth's players took their time to enunciate clearly.
  • This weekend, I started reading it again, and rattled it off in a couple of sessions, mainly on the train on the way to Cork and back.
reel off, recite, list, fire off, run through, enumerate

rattle on/away

Talk rapidly and at length, especially in an inane or boring way.
More example sentences
  • While Pataki rattled on endlessly about his shampoo, Whitman became very vocal about missing The Weekly Standard.
  • Mark and Scott had hit it off spectacularly, rattling on about soccer, airplanes, their favorite movies and t.v. shows, and the like.
  • ‘I love your look today Lori,’ Tiffany by now was clenching her fists as Dale began rattling on.



Pronunciation: /ˈratl-ē, ˈratlē/
More example sentences
  • The 80s model was a rattly, angular, unreliable thing.
  • It looks exactly like that, although the fridge is no longer a rattly aquamarine-coloured thing from the early 70s.
  • I am on a rattly bus heading past a huge ancient pyramid.


Middle English (as a verb): related to Middle Dutch and Low German ratelen, of imitative origin.

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