Definition of ratchet in US English:



  • 1A device consisting of a bar or wheel with a set of angled teeth in which a pawl, cog, or tooth engages, allowing motion in one direction only.

    • ‘To fill the void, I've been watching Monster Garage and Junkyard Wars, both of which are like Iron Chef with power tools & ratchets.’
    • ‘An adjustable ratchet, which neither reel has but which the tensioners might help simulate, would of course give you the best of both worlds.’
    • ‘To unscrew the casing is to throw open such a Pandora's Box of nuts and springs, axles, ratchets and governors as to confound all attempts to recapture them.’
    • ‘A ratchet is a mechanical device that restricts movement in one direction and allows movement in the opposite direction.’
    • ‘The hand keeps pressing against the ratchet as the hammer continues rearward.’
    • ‘The ratchets on the extractor more perfectly engage the new cylinder hand, which was mated with it.’
    • ‘I like this position as it means that, if required, you can easily engage or disengage the ratchet with the hand that is holding the rod while playing a fish.’
    • ‘The gears worked smoothly, to the minor accompaniment of the ratchet clicking and the links passing over the drive sprocket.’
    • ‘Instantaneously, she grabbed the ratchet and started to work, stripping the cover to the engine exhaust.’
    • ‘Surface marker buoy reels tend to work on some form of ratchet system that only allows line out when the ratchet is released.’
    • ‘The idea is that you randomly press down one tooth at a time. One of the teeth - and it changes each time - will cause the jaws to close with the crunch of a spring-loaded ratchet.’
    • ‘Evolutionary software has already designed simple circuits, as well as physical mechanisms like the ratchet and cantilever.’
    • ‘Examples of IVA tools are various sizes of wrenches and sockets, hexagonal, Phillips, and torque head drivers, pliers, and ratchets.’
    • ‘From the off position, the parking brake took six notches of its ratchet to be fully on.’
    • ‘Unlike using a ratchet, which allows for only a series of preset pitches, to hold the blades in position, the cam can grip anywhere along the guide are, allowing for very fine adjustments.’
    prong, point, tine, cog, sprocket
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A bar or wheel that forms part of a ratchet.
      • ‘They calculated that the electric potential inside the pore was asymmetric, shaped like a ratchet's tooth.’
      • ‘The drive mechanism may comprise a ratchet and pawl.’
      • ‘In the same area is the lever that engages the ratchet to rotate the cylinder.’
      • ‘The device was designed and built by chemists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Bologna, and it is the hydrogen bonds that act as locking teeth on a molecular ratchet, controlling the movements of the wheels.’
      • ‘The teeth of the ratchet aren't sufficiently large or strong to hold the center channel speaker if the unit gets bumped or moved.’
  • 2A situation or process that is perceived to be deteriorating or changing steadily in a series of irreversible steps.

    ‘a one-way ratchet of expanding entitlements’
    • ‘Microsoft gains muscle from this process, so it can tighten the ratchets, and so on.’
    • ‘The one historic reversal of this ratchet was Ronald Reagan's 1981 tax cut, which increased revenue through economic growth.’
    • ‘Think of yourself as a ratchet: once you gain an inch of territory you refuse to give it back.’
    • ‘The ratchet will move further in the direction of control at the expense of liberty.’
    • ‘When this accessory protein interaction is defined so that it acts as a ratchet, backward slippage can be prevented with minimal interference with forward progression.’
    • ‘It means working with governments to encourage greater transparency in financial flows so that investment becomes a ratchet for wider economic development.’
    • ‘It's only in the down time that we recognize the one-way ratchet of adding to the cost of doing business.’
    • ‘The occasional tweak of the regulatory ratchet is as much as we can get these days - precisely because people like you and me have persuaded too few voters to give these issues the overarching significance they deserve.’
    • ‘The growth of mammoth government interventions tends to be a one-way ratchet.’
    • ‘That would have given each worker a stake of £100,000 or more, based on the equity ratchet, and a real incentive to drive forward shareholder value.’
    • ‘The international and domestic prestige that can be derived from space achievements can best be understood as a series of ratchets on a downward slope.’
    • ‘And another downward ratchet in wages would just about guarantee it will get worse.’
    • ‘In three major towns in Antrim, the sectarian ratchet is being turned up.’
    • ‘Under the regime of fiat currency these ratchets are irresistible as they are powered and amplified by speculation.’
    • ‘To see more clearly how the ratchet works, consider an even simpler modelýan economy pared down to just two participants.’


[with object]
  • 1Operate by means of a ratchet.

    • ‘It kinks, detaches itself from actin, unkinks, and reattaches, and thereby ratchets along the actin filament in a series of power strokes.’
    • ‘If the water is real deep, try ratcheting your pedals by doing quarter pedal strokes.’
    • ‘The researchers aimed to use the brake to ratchet the propeller in only one direction, by executing a series of chemical reactions between blade and brake.’
    • ‘Quickly repeating these jaw movements, the threadsnake ratchets the squirmy prey farther and farther down the hatch.’
    • ‘In particular, prey is transported into and through the mouth via independent ratcheting movements of the upper jaws.’
    • ‘Somewhere a Dumpster is ratcheted open by the claws of a black machine.’
  • 2ratchet something up/downCause something to rise (or fall) as a step in what is perceived as a steady and irreversible process.

    ‘the Bank of Japan ratcheted up interest rates again’
    • ‘The purpose of the referendum is to further ratchet down our interests,’ said Phillip.’
    • ‘In short, if you're a fan of the series to date, this volume delivers more of the same, advances the overall plot, and ratchets up the tempo a notch.’
    • ‘Once we're into the second hour, Pollack ratchets up the pace a few notches and we notice a quickening of the pulse.’
    • ‘The last battle, in particular, really ratchets up the tension.’
    • ‘Obviously, the death threat ratchets up the tension, but it's not really all that palpable.’
    • ‘The home-improvement giant ratchets up growth - by moving past the lumberyard look’
    • ‘Was this piece of paper reason to stop talking completely and ratchet up the rhetoric?’
    • ‘The Fed's Open Market Committee expected to once again ratchet up interest rates by a quarter point when it meets on Tuesday.’
    • ‘Grantham, always publicly self-deprecating, ratchets up flippancy to reckless levels when commenting on his youngest son.’
    • ‘But as rates rise sharply and home price increases ratchet down, the flow of cash from housing equity is sure to slow in the coming year.’
    • ‘In this case, the geography of industrial organization ratchets up a sequence of scales from local to regional to national, and ultimately to global.’
    • ‘Supplying materials for new driveways and patios has helped the firm ratchet up 13% per annum dividend growth since 1997.’
    • ‘More important, it gives him a chance to quickly ratchet up profits by merging the back office and cutting the workforce.’
    • ‘In future, oil producers will need to continually ratchet up oil prices to make it viable for new sources of ‘more expensive’ oil to be extracted.’
    • ‘The tension ratchets upwards a notch in each successive movement.’
    • ‘All they do is ratchet up a crisis, get more free stuff, sign papers that mean nothing to them, keep on doing the illegal war stuff, and start the cycle all over again.’
    • ‘But if the U.S. ratchets up the pressure with more protectionist moves, Beijing may retaliate with higher tariffs of its own.’
    • ‘In this sense, the murder of Browne ratchets up the deepening shadows around the state/loyalist paramilitary linkage.’
    • ‘Earnings will dip as investment in 3G ratchets up.’
    • ‘But as the vice president ratchets up his attacks on John Kerry, questions are raised about Cheney himself and his role in a campaign that is coming more into focus.’
    • ‘They were thrilled to proceed with merger mania and ratchet up already-humongous profits.’


Mid 17th century: from French rochet, originally denoting a blunt lance head, later in the sense ‘bobbin, ratchet’; related to the base of archaic rock ‘quantity of wool on a distaff for spinning’.