Definition of ratlines in US English:


plural noun

  • A series of small ropes fastened across a sailing ship's shrouds like the rungs of a ladder, used for climbing the rigging.

    • ‘Pamela watched the men climbing the ratlines, standing on the yards, or in the footropes.’
    • ‘Aloft, there were the conventional ratlines on both sides of each mast to gain access to the rigging.’
    • ‘The product of a seafaring family, Seal is at home among the rigging, the ratlines, the shrouds and spars of his leading lady.’
    • ‘The divers kitted up in harnesses and ascended the wet ratlines.’
    • ‘In the fresh wind the vibration of the shrouds as fifty men ran up the ratlines could be distinctly heard.’


Late Middle English: of unknown origin.