Definitions

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

  • noun A mechanism consisting of a pawl that engages the sloping teeth of a wheel or bar, permitting motion in one direction only.
  • noun The pawl, wheel, or bar of this mechanism.
  • intransitive verb To cause to increase or decrease by increments.
  • intransitive verb To increase or decrease by increments.

from The Century Dictionary.

  • noun A detent or pivoted piece designed to fit into the teeth of a ratchet-wheel, permitting the wheel to rotate in one direction, but not in the other.
  • noun In printing, a notched straight blade of brass which rotates the pinions attached to the movable clamps of an electrotype plate mounted upon a block.

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

  • noun A pawl, click, or detent, for holding or propelling a ratchet wheel, or ratch, etc.
  • noun A mechanism composed of a ratchet wheel, or ratch, and pawl. See Ratchet wheel, below, and 2d Ratch.
  • noun (Mech.) a boring brace, having a ratchet wheel and pawl for rotating the tool by back and forth movements of the brace handle.
  • noun a portable machine for working a drill by hand, consisting of a hand lever carrying at one end a drill holder which is revolved by means of a ratchet wheel and pawl, by swinging the lever back and forth.
  • noun (Mach.) a circular wheel having teeth, usually angular, with which a reciprocating pawl engages to turn the wheel forward, or a stationary pawl to hold it from turning backward.

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

  • noun A pawl, click, or detent for holding or propelling a ratchet wheel, or ratch, etc.
  • noun A mechanism composed of a ratchet wheel, or ratch and pawl.
  • noun A ratchet wrench.
  • noun A procedure or regulation that goes in one direction, usually up.
  • verb transitive To cause to become incremented or decremented.
  • verb intransitive To increment or decrement.

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

  • verb move by degrees in one direction only
  • noun mechanical device consisting of a toothed wheel or rack engaged with a pawl that permits it to move in only one direction

Etymologies

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

[French rochet, from Old French rocquet, head of a lance (from the shape of the teeth), of Germanic origin.]

Examples

  • Maybe you believe government spending has a built in ratchet that prevents it from ever really coming down, no matter what party is in power.

    Matthew Yglesias » Cutting the Stimulus

  • In a moment, opening certain ratchet-holes in the wall of the carriage, he has slided these in at a suitable height above, and covered each with cushions and sleeping-rug.

    Railway-Cars in America

  • But you just noted that it was more like a ratchet, which isn't a motor.

    Analogy, How Scientifically Powerful is It?

  • Every mechanic knows that a ratchet is a toothed wheel or bar used to prevent a gizmo from moving backward.

    No Uncertain Terms

  • Every mechanic knows that a ratchet is a toothed wheel or bar used to prevent a gizmo from moving backward.

    No Uncertain Terms

  • Every mechanic knows that a ratchet is a toothed wheel or bar used to prevent a gizmo from moving backward.

    No Uncertain Terms

  • Every mechanic knows that a ratchet is a toothed wheel or bar used to prevent a gizmo from moving backward.

    No Uncertain Terms

  • It has been defanged a bit over the years, starting with Referendum C, which got rid of the so-called ratchet effect and allowed a five-year timeout on revenue limits, so the state could keep the money it collected over TABOR limits.

    Denver Post: News: Breaking: Local

  • It has been defanged a bit over the years, starting with Referendum C, which got rid of the so-called ratchet effect and allowed a five-year timeout on revenue limits, so the state could keep the money it collected over TABOR limits.

    Denver Post: News: Breaking: Local

  • He thinks that so long as the total city budget has grown year to year, and it has, that the ratchet is a myth.

    Colorado Springs Independent

Comments

New comments are temporarily disabled while we update our database.

  • I love this word. I can almost hear the wheel moving.

    September 9, 2009

  • Yes! Rrrat-chet. Rrrat-chet.

    September 10, 2009

  • I'm seeing this word being used as slang for old, 'worn out' or wretched.

    Note the example tweets.

    "all these old ratchet pictures & messages"

    "I hate that ratchet word"

    "Its some ratchet folks in Bertie, lord knows"

    April 24, 2014

  • the slang term is definitely a misspelling/mispronunciation of the word wretched. With that rendering has developed a somewhat more specific usage, at least on twitter, as some kind of derogatory term for women. see the Urbandictionary entry.

    April 24, 2014

  • The google ngram viewer may not offer any clues, but googlefight has "ratchet girl" kicking "wretched girl"'s ass.
    http://bit.ly/1kakpw6 - link to googlefight.com

    April 24, 2014

  • ratchet up - to increase/reduce something over a period of time

    June 23, 2014