from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 5th Edition.

  • noun A tattoo, as of a drum, the hooves of a galloping horse, or machine-gun fire.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun The sound or music of the military drum; a tattoo or “rub-a-dub.”

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English.

  • noun The iterative sound of beating a drum, or of a galloping horse.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

  • noun A continuous, even drumming or rapping, as of the hooves of a galloping horse, or machine-gun fire.
  • verb To drum repeatedly.

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

  • noun the sound made by beating a drum


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

[French, of imitative origin.]

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

From French ran tan plan, onomatopoeic.


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  • Then comes the military réveille, and the deafening 'rataplan' of regimental drums, and the town is soon alive with people arriving and departing by the early trains; whilst others collect in the market-place in holiday attire with baskets of flowers, and commence the erection of an altar to the Virgin in the middle of the square.

    Normandy Picturesque Henry Blackburn 1863

  • Then on, with, the galloping even triplet of the house's hoofs beneath me, as they came down in quick succession, as if the earth were a muffled drum and we were beating an untiring rataplan on her breast.

    Mr. Isaacs 1881

  • Cusins flourishes his drumsticks as if in the art of beating a lively rataplan, but makes no sound.

    Major Barbara George Bernard Shaw 1903

  • The child-actress was the prop of her mother and the donkey; her talent also kept the youth, who began to agitate the nerves of Beynac with his diabolical rataplan hours before each performance.

    Two Summers in Guyenne Edward Harrison Barker 1885

  • Mr. Gordon performed a surpassing rataplan upon his long-suffering thumb-joint and wondered if this queer and direct being might qualify among the redeemable ten per cent.

    Success A Novel Samuel Hopkins Adams 1914

  • Then the quick, sharp roll of the rataplan sounded through the miserable streets of the old city, as with ever-increasing shouts of "Aux armes! aux armes!"

    Historic Boys Their Endeavours, Their Achievements, and Their Times Elbridge Streeter Brooks 1874

  • A cool breeze went; the hoofs of the horses beat a rataplan on the hard surface; the great road, broad enough to make three of, was alive with smart gigs and trotters.

    Australia Felix 2003

  • It affords endless amusement to listen to their endless variety of complaint; some are restless, some spiteful, and some angry, while others sound as merrily as a teakettle, or beat a jolly 'rub-a-dub,' 'rataplan,' that makes a man's soul merry to hear.

    The Continental Monthly, Vol. 6, No 3, September 1864 Devoted To Literature And National Policy Various

  • A rataplan on a side-drum feebly played in the street outside!

    Pushed and the Return Push George Herbert Fosdike Nichols

  • Most of the time it was far away, and it only made two daily promenades past the hotel, but whenever I listened for it I could hear it, beating the same unweary rataplan.

    Schwartz: A History From "Schwartz" by David Christie Murray David Christie Murray


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  • I like this word, it's so scat-adelic.

    July 29, 2008

  • The centerpiece of an aria sung by Sergeant Bouncer of his days in the army in Cox & Box.

    August 20, 2008