Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. Any of the small ropes fastened horizontally to the shrouds of a ship and forming a ladder for going aloft.
  • n. The material used for these ropes.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. Any of the cross ropes between the shrouds, which form a net like ropework, allowing sailors to climb up towards the top of the mast.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. Nautical, one of a series of small ropes or lines which traverse the shrouds horizontally, thus forming the steps of ladders for going aloft.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • n. (nautical) a small horizontal rope between the shrouds of a sailing ship; they form a ladder for climbing aloft

Etymologies

Middle English rathelinge (line), wattling, ratline (cord).
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • Do you have any reason for thinking any kind of ratline is necessary for former commie criminals to get into the US?

    The Volokh Conspiracy » Bringing Communist Human Rights Violators to Justice:

  • With this in mind, will the Syrian "ratline" become largely exterminated?

    Westhawk

  • A sailor, in the main rigging, carried away a ratline in both hands, fell head-downward, and was clutched by an ankle and saved head-downward by a comrade, as the schooner cracked and shuddered, uplifted on the port side, and was flung down on her starboard side till the ocean poured level over her rail.

    CHAPTER XV

  • We should have learned about ratlines long ago, from hard experience -- the Ho Chi Minh Trail was the biggest ratline of them all, a bustling ant trail through the jungles of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia swarming with men and women on foot, on bicycles, in battered Chinese-made trucks, delivering fresh troops and war supplies to the south.

    Nick Mills: Mixed Messages

  • Her foot caught in a ratline, jerking her to a nasty halt.

    LEVIATHAN

  • “Pretty smug, for a bum-rag,” Deryn muttered, snapping her clip back onto a ratline.

    LEVIATHAN

  • They've taken a lot of hits from the U.S. especially the U.S. military saying they're not doing enough to stop these so-called ratline.

    CNN Transcript Jul 4, 2008

  • Then, with my right, I could reach to the forrard shroud, over his right shoulder, and having got a grip, I shifted my left to a level with it; at the same moment, I was able to get my foot on to the splice of a ratline and so give myself a further lift.

    The Ghost Pirates

  • Despite the fact that the line was ice-covered and blowing in the snow and despite the fact that Thomas Blanky could no longer feel the fingers on his right hand, he climbed the ratline like a fourteen-year-old midshipman larking in the upperworks with the other ship's boys after supper on a tropical evening.

    The Terror

  • He couldn't pull himself onto the top spar — it was simply too coated with ice — but he found the shroud lines there and shifted from the ratline to the loosened, folded shroud beneath the spar.

    The Terror

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  • ...so careful were our officers to keep the ratlines taut and straight, that we were obliged to go aloft upon the ropes and shearpoles with which the rigging was swifted in; and these were used as jury ratlines until we got close upon the coast.

    - Richard Henry Dana Jr., Two Years Before the Mast, ch. 35

    September 10, 2008

  • "He let himself down through the hole, his feet groping for the ratlines, very narrow up here, where the shrouds were crowded in so close. His toe found one, far, far down, and he let go the rim; but he did so without considering that he should have waited for the roll to swing him in towards the mast. For a moment as disagreeable as any his hands clawed the empty darkness: they did in fact seize a shroud, the aftermost of all, for he had not waited for the pitch either."
    --Patrick O'Brian, The Nutmeg of Consolation, 226

    March 7, 2008