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

  • intransitive v. To make or emit a quick succession of short percussive sounds.
  • intransitive v. To move with such sounds: A train rattled along the track.
  • intransitive v. To talk rapidly and at length, usually without much thought: rattled on about this and that.
  • transitive v. To cause to make a quick succession of short percussive sounds: rattled the dishes in the kitchen.
  • transitive v. To utter or perform rapidly or effortlessly: rattled off a list of complaints.
  • transitive v. Informal To fluster; unnerve: The accident rattled me. See Synonyms at embarrass.
  • n. A rapid succession of short percussive sounds.
  • n. A device, such as a baby's toy, that produces short percussive sounds.
  • n. A rattling sound in the throat caused by obstructed breathing, especially near the time of death.
  • n. The series of horny structures at the end of a rattlesnake's tail.
  • n. Loud or rapid talk; chatter.
  • transitive v. To secure ratlines to (shrouds).

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. a sound made by loose objects shaking or vibrating against one another
  • n. a baby's toy designed to make sound when shaken, usually containing loose grains or pellets in a hollow container
  • v. (ergative) To create a sound by shaking.
  • v. To scare, startle, unsettle, or unnerve.
  • v. To cause something to make a rattling sound by hitting it.
  • v. To make a rattling noise; to make noise by or from shaking.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A rapid succession of sharp, clattering sounds.
  • n. Noisy, rapid talk.
  • n. An instrument with which a rattling sound is made; especially, a child's toy that rattles when shaken.
  • n. A noisy, senseless talker; a jabberer.
  • n. A scolding; a sharp rebuke.
  • n. Any organ of an animal having a structure adapted to produce a rattling sound.
  • n. The noise in the throat produced by the air in passing through mucus which the lungs are unable to expel; -- chiefly observable at the approach of death, when it is called the death rattle. See R├óle.
  • intransitive v. To make a quick succession of sharp, inharmonious noises, as by the collision of hard and not very sonorous bodies shaken together; to clatter.
  • intransitive v. To drive or ride briskly, so as to make a clattering.
  • intransitive v. To make a clatter with the voice; to talk rapidly and idly; to clatter; -- with on or away.
  • transitive v. To cause to make a rattling or clattering sound.
  • transitive v. To assail, annoy, or stun with a rattling noise.
  • transitive v. Hence, to disconcert; to confuse
  • transitive v. To scold; to rail at.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • To give out a rapid succession of short, sharp, jarring or clattering sounds; clatter, as by continuous concussions.
  • To move or be carried along with a continuous rapid clatter; go or proceed or bear one's self noisily: often used with reference to speed rather than to the accompanying noise.
  • To speak with noisy and rapid utterance; talk rapidly or in a chattering manner: as, to rattle on about trifles.
  • To cause to make a rattling sound or a rapid succession of hard, sharp, or jarring sounds.
  • To utter in sharp, rapid tones; deliver in a smart, rapid manner: as, to rattle off a string of names.
  • To act upon or affect by rattling sounds; startle or stir up by any noisy means.
  • To scold, chide, or rail at noisily; berate clamorously.
  • To shake up, unsettle, or disturb by censure, annoyance, or irritation; bring into an agitated or confused condition.
  • Nautical, to furnish with ratlines.
  • n. A rapid succession of short, sharp, clattering sounds, as of intermitting collision or concussion.
  • n. A rattling clamor of words; sharp, rapid talk of any kind; hence, sharp scolding or railing.
  • n. An instrument or toy contrived to make a rattling sound.
  • n. One who talks rapidly and without moderation or consideration; a noisy, impertinent talker; a jabberer.
  • n. The crepitaculum of the true rattlesnake, consisting of a series of horny epidermic cells of an undulated pyramidal shape, articulated one within the other at the extremity of the tail. See rattlesnake.
  • n. An annual herb, Rhinanthus Crista-galli, of meadows and pastures in Europe and northern Asia. It attaches itself by its fibrous roots to the roots of living grasses, etc., thus doing much damage.
  • n. One of the Old World louseworts, Pedicularis palustris, the red rattle.
  • n. The death-rattle.

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

  • n. a rapid series of short loud sounds (as might be heard with a stethoscope in some types of respiratory disorders)
  • v. make short successive sounds
  • n. a baby's toy that makes percussive noises when shaken
  • n. loosely connected horny sections at the end of a rattlesnake's tail
  • v. shake and cause to make a rattling noise


Middle English ratelen, perhaps from Middle Dutch, probably of imitative origin.
Back-formation from rattling, ratline, variant of ratline.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)
(onomatopoeia). Toy named after sound. (Wiktionary)



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  • My pennies rattle in the plastic bowl.

    - Peter Reading, Kwickie Service, from The Prison Cell and Barrel Mystery, 1976

    June 23, 2008