Definition of rattle in English:



  • 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’
    • ‘As the sound increases in volume, it rattles glass bottles that line the interiors of the hollow metal walls.’
    • ‘With thirteen minutes to go Murray let fly from twenty yards and rattled the crossbar.’
    • ‘Gavin Peers had Rovers' best chance when he rattled the crossbar from a corner.’
    • ‘We should stop and think about why he noisily rattled a big tin cup midway through the week.’
    • ‘An earthquake rattled the area knocking the teen hero to the ground.’
    • ‘Hanmari gave a roar of outrage and then proceeded to pound on the door down, or at least knock hard enough to rattle the hinges.’
    • ‘Every now and then they hit a hard lump of water which shook Angus and rattled his teeth.’
    • ‘The Flea rattles its ghostly chains in glee at a visitor from San Marino.’
    • ‘Thunder rattled the windows and lightning gave an eerie and unworldly light to halls.’
    • ‘An explosion blasted from the direction of the lobby, rattling the shelves and shaking the floor under them.’
    • ‘The tin is being rattled hard again this week for more corporate support.’
    • ‘He produced a small, but bulging, orange change purse and shook it, rattling the coins inside.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘I hope it's not something that would break if you rattled it too hard.’
    • ‘We're even looking at video right now at how that earthquake rattled the same region then.’
    • ‘But this one made his jaw clench tight and his teeth rattle a bit.’
    • ‘She turned the handle again, pulling at it harder, rattling the door in its frame but not opening it.’
    • ‘A low rumble of thunder rattles the window, shakes a vase on the end table.’
    • ‘A sharp series of knocks rattled the door in its frame.’
    clatter, bang, clang, clank, clink, clunk
    jingle, jangle, clink, tinkle
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    1. 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’
      • ‘There were no windows inside the carriage, so Primrose's leader had to sit in silence as the carriage rattled towards Graveyard.’
      • ‘The vehicle rattled over a bridge, and Brian caught a glimpse of dark trees hunched protectively over black water.’
      • ‘Grit braced himself as the carriage rattled along the old road, heading towards the town.’
      • ‘And as the carriage rattled off into the city, I looked down at the gloves on my hand.’
      • ‘When he heard the truck rattling down the driveway, he let the stallion out, and waited.’
      • ‘I looked across my neighbourhood, women in saris in their front gardens, kids on bikes, trains rattling past in the distance.’
      • ‘The cart rattled, and she had been jostled unmercifully.’
      • ‘I don't want to see empty cars rattling by the Strib building.’
      • ‘A car comes rattling down the street, thick smoke pouring out the back, every door a different colour of blistered paint.’
      • ‘Streetlamps cast a cold, pale glow on the pavement; an occasional trolley rattles by below.’
      • ‘Soon, dozens of guests began pouring in, their carriages rattling past the front door and around to the back.’
      • ‘Sure enough, a large grey lorry was rattling down the cobble road.’
      • ‘You see, those wide-open spaces streaking past when you're rattling about on the train are ramshackle urban Edens.’
      • ‘As my bus slowly rattled and groaned its way out of La Paz for the long journey south, I shuddered at what I'd let myself in for.’
      • ‘I had to wait until Hernandez and I were in the van rattling back to the hotel.’
      • ‘Drags of empty coal cars rattle past on their westward run.’
      • ‘‘The old line runs right past my back door and I would not like trains rattling past every hour,’ he said.’
      • ‘Attack helicopters rattling low over the desert were especially terrifying, criss-crossing over the city and firing rockets into the centre.’
      • ‘A few aid agencies, charter airlines and the national carrier rattled around the dimly lit concourse.’
      • ‘The carriage rattled along the narrow, winding streets to Montemarte, where the Basilica of the Sacre Couer lay.’
      jolt, bump, bounce, shake, vibrate, jar
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    2. 1.2[no object]Be in or occupy (an unnecessarily spacious room or building)
      ‘the house was too big—we just rattled around in it’
      • ‘As the law stands it is perfectly legal for a baby, toddler or older child to rattle around in the back seat of a car with absolutely no seatbelt restraint of any kind.’
      • ‘Well, no need to rattle around in a double room or cabin while being penalised with a single person supplement.’
      • ‘You are far too pretty and sweet to be rattling around in here.’
      • ‘But with the boys at boarding school, she and her husband were rattling about in their grand Grade II-listed house, designed by renowned Victorian architect S.S. Teulon.’
      • ‘Opening night saw a desultory 20 people rattling around in a big, airy room ready for 70 diners.’
      • ‘As usual we'd left it so late that booking was a waste of time, as we found we'd been shuffled into one of the smaller screens, and the few of us in there were left to rattle around in the middle of a dozen-dozen empty seats.’
      • ‘The owners don't feel like they're rattling around in this big house.’
      • ‘The times spent rattling around in hotel rooms isn't so bad as rattling around in my own home.’
      • ‘Many are rattling around in larger-than-necessary homes now the children have grown up and found nests of their own - and it can be a boon to first-time buyers.’
      • ‘He said: ‘I drove my van to work, and thought I could hear things rattling about in the back a little bit.’’
      • ‘She said that he had an entire subaquatic palace to rattle around in.’
      • ‘He supposed thoughts, like shoes, were something you either rattled about in, or grew out of.’
      • ‘I am rattling around in the old place and I never really liked it in the first instance.’
      • ‘Where are the shows about gadfly millionaires who rattle about in drafty mansions, and the mundane decisions we must make ev'ry day?’
      • ‘This also means there aren't even more large vans driving around with three or four boxes rattling around in the back, which can only be a good thing.’
      • ‘To boost morale for the remaining employees - still rattling around in the nearly empty space - Comiso and his two partners abandoned their window offices for desks on the main floor.’
      • ‘One example of an on-demand product delivery system would be a software product downloaded from the Internet, and free of the boxboard packages CDs and manuals usually rattle around in.’
      • ‘The maintenance backlog alone was more than 100 million and there were too few pupils rattling around in too many schools.’
      • ‘It was one of those nights when everything went right for United, from the saturated pitch that suited them down to the ground, to the crowd of just 41,000 rattling around in a stadium that could hold more than twice that.’
      • ‘The rich and famous can rattle around in sumptuous Grand Duplex Apartments, Royal Suites or Penthouses.’
  • 2informal [with object] Make (someone) nervous, worried, or irritated.

    ‘she turned quickly, rattled by his presence’
    • ‘‘Just before half-time things were not going too bad and then the goal that they got rattled us before we went in,’ he said.’
    • ‘The first is a significant emotional experience, which refers to an event or happening that literally rattles the person to change.’
    • ‘The sight of Anna, not the slightest bit ruffled, rattled him severely.’
    • ‘Walking around the city last night, several hours after the morning's atrocities, many people were visibly rattled by what had happened.’
    • ‘James Hickey is also capable of rattling opponents.’
    • ‘People being loud on public transport really rattles me for some reason.’
    • ‘The opposition may make negative personal comments to rattle you.’
    • ‘Jack's presence rattled Wilson, reminding him of Henry as a little boy showing Jack how to work the old cash register.’
    • ‘Clearly rattled by the booze suspension, Homme berated the owners of the building.’
    • ‘They're so good at rattling me, at making me feel like I'm the one at fault, like we're causing trouble.’
    • ‘Perhaps those comments will help steady the nerves of many Americans apparently rattled by an e-mail that is circulating nationwide.’
    • ‘Ahern's response was to speed to the defence of a clearly rattled Bush.’
    • ‘Clearly rattled, Brash tried to straddle both sides of the argument at once.’
    • ‘This sudden turn-around rattled the visitors.’
    • ‘He looked at the capable assistant with sincere eyes knowing that this would rattle him into some flustered explanation of his whereabouts.’
    • ‘This is the language of seriously rattled people.’
    • ‘Zimbabwe is rattling investor confidence in Africa, the only region of the world to show an overall decline in per capita savings and investments since 1970.’
    • ‘But the ambush, and the enemy flares and gunfire that followed, rattled the men of Bravo Company more than any event.’
    • ‘So the president decided to call a news conference, and he rattled some reporters by giving them just 45 minutes notice this time.’
    • ‘Maybe he was rattled by Lorelai's sudden possible job offer?’
    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
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  • 1A rapid succession of short, sharp, sounds.

    ‘the rattle of teacups on the tray’
    • ‘A distinct rattle of chains caught my attention, emitted from the shadows.’
    • ‘Most of us neglect minor rattles because they don't directly affect the running of the car.’
    • ‘First the stupid heater developed a rattle at about 4am and woke me up.’
    • ‘A rattle of a chain in the distance caught Tonya's attention.’
    • ‘The new cabs are 75 percent stiffer in construction to ward off squeaks and rattles.’
    • ‘From the brittle rattle of applause that staggered around the room, it was obvious that not too many of the audience were from the North Island.’
    • ‘The sound of the sea hitting the ship made it difficult to sleep and the rattle of tin dishes sounded over the groans of passengers being sick.’
    • ‘There was a rattle of wheels in the distance.’
    • ‘As they walked the halls, a rattle of gunfire intruded from across the filtration ponds.’
    • ‘But when no further sounds or rattles came up through the hull, I realized that we had landed.’
    • ‘Then in the distance I heard the rattle of a harness.’
    • ‘They have a variety of calls usually described as whistles, rattles, trills, squeaks or screams.’
    • ‘There was more of a rattle in it this morning, and less of a hum, if that makes any sense.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The air seemed to beat against my ear drums, vibrating with the piercing rattle of insects… cicada's, grasshoppers and huge black beetles.’
    • ‘In the distance there is the rapid rattle of a Kalashnikov.’
    • ‘There is an occasional cough, the shuffle of a footstep, the jingle of some coins, and the rattle of newspapers.’
    • ‘Spasms of alto sax meet the outer edge of the record, accompanied by the jingle of a music box and the rattle of metal shards dropping to the floor.’
    • ‘Immediately there was an explosion, then the loud rattle of wheels on wood, and a cheer.’
    • ‘Somewhere around Parliament House, the rattle turned to a clunk.’
    clatter, clattering, clank, clanking, clink, clinking, clanging
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    1. 1.1A gurgling sound in the throat of a dying person.
      ‘there was a choking rattle and his eyes turned upwards’
      • ‘Her body went rigid, and the moan became a rattle deep in her throat.’
      • ‘People take a long time to die, accompanied by the cracking of bone, the resistance of gristle, dire last-gasp gurgles and rattles.’
      • ‘He laughed and I noticed there was a wheezy rattle in his throat.’
      • ‘After their night's respite, my congested bronchial tubes once more begin their noisy rattle.’
      death rattle
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  • 2A thing used to make a rattling sound, in particular.

    • ‘Traditional musical instruments included rattles, which were prominent in ceremonies.’
    • ‘The English under King Harold make a brave stand, but their pointed sticks and voodoo rattles are as nothing against the Normans' tanks, airplanes, and modern artillery.’
    • ‘Ethnic colour came to this week's CNA conference in the form of six Squamish nation aboriginals with a drum and two rattles.’
    • ‘In the other he held a rawhide rattle with a beaded strap, which he wrapped around his wrist.’
    • ‘They could shake a rattle or something, they're no trouble at all.’
    • ‘Pierced and strung together by youths, shells also served as ankle rattles for use in masquerades.’
    • ‘Other instruments used included rattles, whistles, flutes, mouth harps, and stringed-instruments constructed with a bow and resonator.’
    • ‘Then you can experiment with journeying using other sounds, such as rattles, etc.’
    • ‘The second movement opens with timpani and rattles, followed by almost electronic sounding little looped musical figures that litter all of Glass's compositions.’
    • ‘More commonly, cowhorn rattles with wooden handles and water drums were used.’
    • ‘One man demonstrates the use of the rattle by loudly singing a Seneca song in the theater after the show, while hammering the rattle against his palm.’
    • ‘In the past, the women performed the rhythms by sitting on tiny stools, singing and beating little rattles or bamboos cut lengthwise.’
    • ‘Many handmade instruments include whistles, drums, rattles, and stringed instruments.’
    • ‘The singing begins and your attention is on the beat of the drum, the sound of the rattle, and the men's voices captured in song.’
    • ‘Another service, more tapers and hymns, more speeches and, in front of the coffin, white-robbed choristers chant and rhythmically shake silver rattles.’
    • ‘Knowles initiated a process of discovery in which these extraordinary wall sculptures were revealed to double as bean rattles and paper saws with a spectrum of sonic properties.’
    • ‘As I left the ground I placed the rattle under my coat.’
    • ‘They shook rattles fashioned of skulls on long bones as they chanted the cadences of the spell.’
    • ‘It includes ten leg rattles worn by dancers as both a composite musical instrument and a protective device.’
    • ‘The primary traditional instruments were Shaman's rattles and sticks beaten during hand games.’
    1. 2.1A baby's toy consisting of a container filled with small pellets, which makes a noise when shaken.
      • ‘The usual teddies, rattles and baby outfits just weren't good enough for five-week-old Ikra Yaseen.’
      • ‘The noise started Jordan and made her take a step backward onto a rattle of the baby's which made her fall backwards onto the foot of the bed.’
      • ‘Thousands of baby rattles will also be delivered to US senators.’
      • ‘Distractions such as rattles, music, or even running a vacuum, washing machine, or blow-dryer may be amusing or comforting to your baby.’
      • ‘Take charge of baths, or walk baby around in a soft carrier, or be the one to introduce squeaky toys and rattles.’
      • ‘Golota kept his lips pursed together like a baby refusing its rattle, the mouthpiece stayed out and the fight was over.’
      • ‘I had to meet Derek at three and Mama, Jenny and I were still at Harrods looking at cribs and baby rattles.’
      • ‘Shake their imagination like a baby's rattle.’
      • ‘Women screamed and jumped on chairs, men spilled their pints and babies dropped their rattles with each twist and turn of a nail-biting game.’
      • ‘America reminds me in some ways of a kid with a baby rattle.’
      • ‘My baby woke us up every morning with the precious jingle from his silver rattle and I will always cherish that sound.’
      • ‘The most entertainment he could expect was his mother's occasional rattle waving.’
      • ‘Long live hand-blown crystal champagne flutes and sterling silver baby rattles!’
      • ‘These ideas are alluded to in this affable portrait by the angelic baby grasping a toy rattle while being tenderly held by its mother.’
      • ‘Allow your baby time to recognize that the rattle is producing the sound.’
      • ‘Ethan the baby gets a noisy rattle and a soft activity book.’
      • ‘He made a lot of noise by banging his rattle against his little table, and generally had a good time pretending to be all grown up.’
      • ‘Use things that he can grab with his fists such as soft washable toys or rattles with no sharp edges.’
      • ‘I bought giant stuffed frogs that squeak, plush lambies to cuddle, felt baby rattles to entertain.’
      • ‘Keep soft toys, rattles, or pacifiers on hand in case your baby gets fussy.’
    2. 2.2British A wooden device that makes a loud noise when whirled around, formerly used by spectators at football matches.
      • ‘His routine is very different as he stands on a stool and uses a football rattle.’
      • ‘For some, it should have long since gone the way of fans with rattles and balls with laces into a museum.’
      • ‘Heck, there were even folk with good old-fashioned wooden rattles among the 5,449 crowd.’
      • ‘Many were in fancy dress and most of them were swinging rattles and shouting.’
      • ‘Prayer wheels are the spiritual equivalent of football rattles, though the motivation is not quite the same.’
      • ‘The children dressed in soccer gear whistled, shook rattles and cheered as the orchestra gave a rousing rendition of this well known football anthem.’
      • ‘In 50 years the mouse has replaced the rattle as the football fans' accessory of choice.’
    3. 2.3The set of horny rings at the end of a rattlesnake's tail, shaken as a warning.
      • ‘The forked tongue darted from his lips, and the tip of his tail began the familiar sound of a rattle.’
      • ‘Rattlesnakes shake their tail rattles as aposematic warnings.’
  • 3archaic 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’
      • ‘I should like to ask Tom Lubbock: who rattled your cage?’
      • ‘That boy just seems to love rattling your cage.’
      • ‘What's the matter, atheist, is my religion rattling 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.’
      • ‘The Democrats lost the mid-term elections because the Greens did not rattle their cage.’
      • ‘If I'm missing the point - please rattle my cage.’
      • ‘If you don't want my opinion, don't rattle my cage.’
      • ‘It's almost like you're getting some sort of cheap thrill by rattling my cage.’
      • ‘They will have to work harder to rattle his cage.’
      anger, annoy, antagonize, provoke, vex, irritate, offend
      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
      nark, get on someone's wick
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  • rattle sabres

    • Threaten to take aggressive action.

      ‘we've got the miners rattling sabres again’
      • ‘The current fear-mongering over Social Security springs from the same totalitarian impulse as motivated those who rattled sabers in the past.’
      • ‘Ministers are also not required to become emotionally involved, or to throw down ultimatums, or to rattle sabers and make dire threats.’
      • ‘We do know that they like to bluster and rattle sabres and all sorts of things.’
      • ‘Why are India and Pakistan still rattling sabres and missiles at one another over Kashmir?’
      • ‘She is in no position to rattle sabers at this point.’
      • ‘The Russians had rattled sabers throughout 1983, trying to stop NATO's theater missile deployment.’
      • ‘It talks tough, talks big, and rattles sabres but never puts its money where its mouth is.’
      • ‘But if it was so successful, why are we rattling sabers now?’
      • ‘His best divisions were bogged down in Yemen, so he was in a weak position, and he rattled sabers hard as a bluff.’
      • ‘That could be changing, as China continues to rattle sabers and pose increasing strategic instability.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • rattle something off

    • Say, perform, or produce something quickly and effortlessly.

      ‘he rattled off some instructions’
      • ‘Two by two the names were rattled off until only a handful were left.’
      • ‘And there you were thinking that I just plonked myself down in front of my computer for a couple of hours to rattle this stuff off.’
      • ‘He rattled something off in his native language that had everyone but Miliar confused.’
      • ‘The phone rang again this time her mother answered, she laughed and rattled something off in Spanish.’
      • ‘These commands were rattled off at a frantic speed, then a few seconds silence ensued, until Telli's weapons were lying on the ground a few feet away from him.’
      • ‘She nodded at the door as she rattled this list off to her brother, and grinning he slipped out.’
      • ‘Wellman's actors rattled their dialogue off like machine gun fire while Del Ruth's players took their time to enunciate clearly.’
      • ‘She rattled it off quickly and Zenn put his gun away.’
      • ‘I wanted details and I rattled questions off as they came to mind.’
      • ‘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
      spiel off
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  • 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
      gab, yak, yackety-yak, yap, yabber, yatter
      witter, rabbit, chunter, waffle
      run off at the mouth
      twaddle, clack, twattle
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Middle English: related to Middle Dutch and Low German ratelen, of imitative origin.