Definition of rattle in English:

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Pronunciation: /ˈrat(ə)l/


1Make or cause to make a rapid succession of short, sharp knocking sounds: [no object]: the roof rattled with little gusts of wind [with object]: he rattled some change in his pocket
More example sentences
  • A sharp series of knocks rattled the door in its frame.
  • To sit in it on a windy day was an experience in itself as you listened to the wind whistling through and rattling the galvanised roof.
  • Thunder rattled the windows and lightning gave an eerie and unworldly light to halls.
clatter, bang, clang, clank, clink, clunk
jingle, jangle, clink, tinkle
1.1 [no object, with adverbial of direction] (Of a vehicle or its occupants) move or travel with a knocking sound: 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, shake, vibrate, jar;
British  judder
rare jounce
1.2 [no object] (rattle about/around in) Be in or occupy (an unnecessarily spacious room or building): the house was too big—we just rattled around in it
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.
2 [with object] informal Make (someone) nervous, worried, or irritated: she turned quickly, rattled by his presence
More example sentences
  • Jack's presence rattled Wilson, reminding him of Henry as a little boy showing Jack how to work the old cash register.
  • The sight of Anna, not the slightest bit ruffled, rattled him severely.
  • He looked at the capable assistant with sincere eyes knowing that this would rattle him into some flustered explanation of his whereabouts.
unnerve, disconcert, disturb, fluster, shake, perturb, discompose, discomfit, discountenance, make nervous, put off, throw off balance, ruffle, agitate, put off one's stroke, upset, frighten, scare
informal faze, throw, get to


1A rapid succession of short, sharp, 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, clattering, clank, clanking, clink, clinking, clanging;
jingle, jingling, jangle, jangling
1.1A gurgling sound in the throat of a dying person: there was a choking rattle and his eyes turned upwards
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.
death rattle
technical rale
2A thing used to make a rattling sound, in particular:
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, which makes a noise when shaken.
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.
2.2British A wooden device that makes a loud noise when whirled around, formerly used by spectators at football matches.
Example sentences
  • In 50 years the mouse has replaced the rattle as the football fans' accessory of choice.
  • Prayer wheels are the spiritual equivalent of football rattles, though the motivation is not quite the same.
  • Heck, there were even folk with good old-fashioned wooden rattles among the 5,449 crowd.
2.3The set of horny rings at the end of a rattlesnake’s tail, shaken as a warning.
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.
3 archaic A person who talks incessantly in a lively or inane way: he is such a rattle!



rattle someone's cage (or chain)

informal Anger or irritate someone: put the pressure on him—rattle his cage
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.
anger, annoy, antagonize, provoke, vex, irritate, offend
informal aggravate, rile, needle, get someone's back up, make someone's hackles rise, rub up the wrong way, ruffle someone's feathers, get up someone's nose, get in someone's hair, get someone's dander up, get under someone's skin
British informal nark, get on someone's wick

rattle sabres

Threaten to take aggressive action: we’ve got the miners rattling sabres again See also sabre-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 rapidly, fire off, run through, enumerate
informal spiel off

rattle on/away

Talk rapidly and at length, especially in an inane way: she found herself rattling on about unhappiness and happiness
prattle, babble, chatter, gabble, prate, go on, run on, jabber, jibber-jabber, gibber, blether, blather, blither, ramble, maunder, drivel, twitter
informal gab, yak, yackety-yak, yap, yabber, yatter
British informal witter, rabbit, chunter, waffle
Scottish & Irish informal slabber
North American informal run off at the mouth
archaic twaddle, clack, twattle



adjective (rattlier, rattliest)
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: related to Middle Dutch and Low German ratelen, of imitative origin.

Words that rhyme with rattle

battle, cattle, chattel, embattle, prattle, Seattle, tattle

For editors and proofreaders

Line breaks: rat¦tle

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