Definition of rattle in English:



  • 1Make or cause to make a rapid succession of short, sharp knocking sounds, typically as a result of shaking and striking repeatedly against a hard surface or object.

    with object ‘he rattled some change in his pocket’
    no object ‘there was a sound of bottles rattling as he stacked the crates’
    • ‘Robyn was about to protest when the door rattled again.’
    • ‘When the houseboat's roof started rattling, they knew it was time to get off.’
    • ‘We should stop and think about why he noisily rattled a big tin cup midway through the week.’
    • ‘To her distress, the person persisted, the door shaking and rattling with his knocks.’
    • ‘As the sound increases in volume, it rattles glass bottles that line the interiors of the hollow metal walls.’
    • ‘A half-hour or so later the key rattled in the lock.’
    • ‘A tin can slammed against a wall suddenly then rattled in the wind.’
    • ‘What I heard as raindrops are the leaves of the giant oak above me, rattling in the wind.’
    • ‘Then, there was this scratching metallic sound and… the whole elevator shook and rattled.’
    • ‘The plan was to build a wall that shook and rattled, simulating an earthquake, complete with sound effects.’
    • ‘Myri was yelling, waving her arms around and slamming her hands on the table so hard that the cutlery rattled.’
    • ‘Across the room, a cap rattled around inside an empty shot glass.’
    • ‘He roughly shook Cloud again, so hard that his teeth rattled again.’
    • ‘The window pane began to rattle as the rain began to pound from the heavens.’
    • ‘A sharp series of knocks rattled the door in its frame.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘But this one made his jaw clench tight and his teeth rattle a bit.’
    • ‘He produced a small, but bulging, orange change purse and shook it, rattling the coins inside.’
    • ‘Lizzy demanded offensively, her voice sounding like wind chimes rattling relentlessly in a strong winter wind.’
    • ‘Every now and then they hit a hard lump of water which shook Angus and rattled his teeth.’
    • ‘So a few days ago my son was out playing and decided to give away the five coins that were rattling around in his pocket.’
    • ‘Some rapid catching up followed to the accompaniment of the roof still rattling in the wind and off we all set again.’
    • ‘The Flea rattles its ghostly chains in glee at a visitor from San Marino.’
    • ‘I sat motionless, gripping my fork so hard that it rattled against my plate.’
    • ‘There are shingle beaches where grayling spawn, rattling rapids and wooded islands that spread wide the flow.’
    • ‘Gavin Peers had Rovers' best chance when he rattled the crossbar from a corner.’
    • ‘She turned the handle again, pulling at it harder, rattling the door in its frame but not opening it.’
    • ‘We're even looking at video right now at how that earthquake rattled the same region then.’
    • ‘But it's a touch cramped in there if you're any way tall, the seats need more lumbar support and the roof can rattle when it's stowed.’
    • ‘Low hanging twigs swept across the roof, rattling above our heads like hailstones.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘With thirteen minutes to go Murray let fly from twenty yards and rattled the crossbar.’
    • ‘Thunder rattled the windows and lightning gave an eerie and unworldly light to halls.’
    • ‘I hope it's not something that would break if you rattled it too hard.’
    • ‘The wind howled, the roof rattled, the whole cabin creaked and moaned.’
    • ‘The tin is being rattled hard again this week for more corporate support.’
    • ‘A low rumble of thunder rattles the window, shakes a vase on the end table.’
    • ‘An explosion blasted from the direction of the lobby, rattling the shelves and shaking the floor under them.’
    clatter, bang, clang, clank, clink, clunk
    jingle, jangle, clink, tinkle
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1no object , with adverbial of direction (of a vehicle or its driver or passengers) move or travel somewhere while making a rattle.
      ‘trains rattled past at frequent intervals’
      • ‘The carriage rattled along the narrow, winding streets to Montemarte, where the Basilica of the Sacre Couer lay.’
      • ‘A few aid agencies, charter airlines and the national carrier rattled around the dimly lit concourse.’
      • ‘Sure enough, a large grey lorry was rattling down the cobble road.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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 old line runs right past my back door and I would not like trains rattling past every hour,’ he said.’
      • ‘Drags of empty coal cars rattle past on their westward run.’
      • ‘There were no windows inside the carriage, so Primrose's leader had to sit in silence as the carriage rattled towards Graveyard.’
      • ‘Attack helicopters rattling low over the desert were especially terrifying, criss-crossing over the city and firing rockets into the centre.’
      • ‘You see, those wide-open spaces streaking past when you're rattling about on the train are ramshackle urban Edens.’
      • ‘Streetlamps cast a cold, pale glow on the pavement; an occasional trolley rattles by below.’
      • ‘Grit braced himself as the carriage rattled along the old road, heading towards the town.’
      • ‘I had to wait until Hernandez and I were in the van rattling back to the hotel.’
      • ‘The vehicle rattled over a bridge, and Brian caught a glimpse of dark trees hunched protectively over black water.’
      • ‘Soon, dozens of guests began pouring in, their carriages rattling past the front door and around to the back.’
      jolt, bump, bounce, shake, vibrate, jar
      View synonyms
    2. 1.2rattle around inno object Be in or occupy (an unnecessarily or undesirably spacious room or building).
      • ‘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 times spent rattling around in hotel rooms isn't so bad as rattling around in my own home.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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?’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘The rich and famous can rattle around in sumptuous Grand Duplex Apartments, Royal Suites or Penthouses.’
      • ‘Well, no need to rattle around in a double room or cabin while being penalised with a single person supplement.’
      • ‘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 maintenance backlog alone was more than 100 million and there were too few pupils rattling around in too many schools.’
      • ‘The owners don't feel like they're rattling around in this big house.’
      • ‘Opening night saw a desultory 20 people rattling around in a big, airy room ready for 70 diners.’
      • ‘He said: ‘I drove my van to work, and thought I could hear things rattling about in the back a little bit.’’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘You are far too pretty and sweet to be rattling around in here.’
      • ‘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.’
  • 2informal with object Cause (someone) to feel nervous, worried, or irritated.

    ‘she turned quickly, rattled by his presence’
    • ‘Maybe he was rattled by Lorelai's sudden possible job offer?’
    • ‘Clearly rattled, Brash tried to straddle both sides of the argument at once.’
    • ‘The opposition may make negative personal comments to rattle you.’
    • ‘People being loud on public transport really rattles me for some reason.’
    • ‘James Hickey is also capable of rattling opponents.’
    • ‘Walking around the city last night, several hours after the morning's atrocities, many people were visibly rattled by what had happened.’
    • ‘But the ambush, and the enemy flares and gunfire that followed, rattled the men of Bravo Company more than any event.’
    • ‘The first is a significant emotional experience, which refers to an event or happening that literally rattles the person to change.’
    • ‘Jack's presence rattled Wilson, reminding him of Henry as a little boy showing Jack how to work the old cash register.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Ahern's response was to speed to the defence of a clearly rattled Bush.’
    • ‘This is the language of seriously rattled people.’
    • ‘They're so good at rattling me, at making me feel like I'm the one at fault, like we're causing trouble.’
    • ‘‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘The sight of Anna, not the slightest bit ruffled, rattled him severely.’
    • ‘So the president decided to call a news conference, and he rattled some reporters by giving them just 45 minutes notice this time.’
    • ‘Perhaps those comments will help steady the nerves of many Americans apparently rattled by an e-mail that is circulating nationwide.’
    • ‘Clearly rattled by the booze suspension, Homme berated the owners of the building.’
    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
    View synonyms


  • 1A rapid succession of short, sharp, hard sounds.

    ‘the rattle of teacups on the tray’
    • ‘But when no further sounds or rattles came up through the hull, I realized that we had landed.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Then in the distance I heard the rattle of a harness.’
    • ‘There is an occasional cough, the shuffle of a footstep, the jingle of some coins, and the rattle of newspapers.’
    • ‘First the stupid heater developed a rattle at about 4am and woke me up.’
    • ‘As they walked the halls, a rattle of gunfire intruded from across the filtration ponds.’
    • ‘There was more of a rattle in it this morning, and less of a hum, if that makes any sense.’
    • ‘Somewhere around Parliament House, the rattle turned to a clunk.’
    • ‘The air seemed to beat against my ear drums, vibrating with the piercing rattle of insects… cicada's, grasshoppers and huge black beetles.’
    • ‘A rattle of a chain in the distance caught Tonya's attention.’
    • ‘There was a rattle of wheels in the distance.’
    • ‘They have a variety of calls usually described as whistles, rattles, trills, squeaks or screams.’
    • ‘The new cabs are 75 percent stiffer in construction to ward off squeaks and rattles.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘Immediately there was an explosion, then the loud rattle of wheels on wood, and a cheer.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In the distance there is the rapid rattle of a Kalashnikov.’
    • ‘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.’
    clatter, clattering, clank, clanking, clink, clinking, clanging
    View synonyms
    1. 1.1 A gurgling sound in the throat of a dying person.
      • ‘Her body went rigid, and the moan became a rattle deep in her throat.’
      • ‘After their night's respite, my congested bronchial tubes once more begin their noisy rattle.’
      • ‘He laughed and I noticed there was a wheezy rattle in his throat.’
      • ‘People take a long time to die, accompanied by the cracking of bone, the resistance of gristle, dire last-gasp gurgles and rattles.’
      death rattle
      View synonyms
  • 2A thing used to make a rattling sound.

    • ‘Traditional musical instruments included rattles, which were prominent in ceremonies.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘It includes ten leg rattles worn by dancers as both a composite musical instrument and a protective device.’
    • ‘They shook rattles fashioned of skulls on long bones as they chanted the cadences of the spell.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘In the other he held a rawhide rattle with a beaded strap, which he wrapped around his wrist.’
    • ‘The primary traditional instruments were Shaman's rattles and sticks beaten during hand games.’
    • ‘Ethnic colour came to this week's CNA conference in the form of six Squamish nation aboriginals with a drum and two rattles.’
    • ‘Another service, more tapers and hymns, more speeches and, in front of the coffin, white-robbed choristers chant and rhythmically shake silver rattles.’
    • ‘As I left the ground I placed the rattle under my coat.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘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.’
    • ‘More commonly, cowhorn rattles with wooden handles and water drums were used.’
    • ‘Other instruments used included rattles, whistles, flutes, mouth harps, and stringed-instruments constructed with a bow and resonator.’
    • ‘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.’
    1. 2.1 A baby's toy consisting of a container filled with small pellets, which makes a noise when shaken.
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘Keep soft toys, rattles, or pacifiers on hand in case your baby gets fussy.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I had to meet Derek at three and Mama, Jenny and I were still at Harrods looking at cribs and baby rattles.’
      • ‘I bought giant stuffed frogs that squeak, plush lambies to cuddle, felt baby rattles to entertain.’
      • ‘Long live hand-blown crystal champagne flutes and sterling silver baby rattles!’
      • ‘Ethan the baby gets a noisy rattle and a soft activity book.’
      • ‘My baby woke us up every morning with the precious jingle from his silver rattle and I will always cherish that sound.’
      • ‘Distractions such as rattles, music, or even running a vacuum, washing machine, or blow-dryer may be amusing or comforting to your baby.’
      • ‘Use things that he can grab with his fists such as soft washable toys or rattles with no sharp edges.’
      • ‘America reminds me in some ways of a kid with a baby rattle.’
      • ‘Take charge of baths, or walk baby around in a soft carrier, or be the one to introduce squeaky toys and rattles.’
      • ‘Shake their imagination like a baby's rattle.’
      • ‘The usual teddies, rattles and baby outfits just weren't good enough for five-week-old Ikra Yaseen.’
      • ‘The most entertainment he could expect was his mother's occasional rattle waving.’
      • ‘Golota kept his lips pursed together like a baby refusing its rattle, the mouthpiece stayed out and the fight was over.’
      • ‘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.’
    2. 2.2 The set of horny rings at the end of a rattlesnake's tail, shaken with a dry buzzing sound 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.’


  • rattle someone's cage (or chain)

    • informal Make someone feel angry or annoyed.

      • ‘The Democrats lost the mid-term elections because the Greens did not rattle their cage.’
      • ‘If you don't want my opinion, don't rattle my cage.’
      • ‘That boy just seems to love 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's almost like you're getting some sort of cheap thrill by rattling my cage.’
      • ‘I should like to ask Tom Lubbock: who rattled your cage?’
      • ‘They will have to work harder to rattle his cage.’
      • ‘If I'm missing the point - please rattle my cage.’
      • ‘It appears to have rattled my cage significantly.’
      • ‘What's the matter, atheist, is my religion rattling your cage?’
      anger, annoy, antagonize, provoke, vex, irritate, offend
      View synonyms
  • rattle sabers

    • Threaten to take aggressive action.

      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘We do know that they like to bluster and rattle sabres and all sorts of things.’
      • ‘But if it was so successful, why are we rattling sabers now?’
      • ‘She is in no position to rattle sabers at this point.’
      • ‘Why are India and Pakistan still rattling sabres and missiles at one another over Kashmir?’
      • ‘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.’

Phrasal Verbs

  • rattle something off

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

      ‘he rattled off some instructions’
      • ‘Wellman's actors rattled their dialogue off like machine gun fire while Del Ruth's players took their time to enunciate clearly.’
      • ‘Two by two the names were rattled off until only a handful were left.’
      • ‘She nodded at the door as she rattled this list off to her brother, and grinning he slipped out.’
      • ‘She rattled it off quickly and Zenn put his gun away.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘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.’
      • ‘I wanted details and I rattled questions off as they came to mind.’
      • ‘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.’
      reel off, recite, list rapidly, fire off, run through, enumerate
      View synonyms
  • rattle on/away

    • Talk rapidly and at length, especially in an inane or boring way.

      • ‘Here I am rattling on about how I want to go and ‘relieve’ my tension with some buff guy, and you're having a crisis.’
      • ‘Kay was rattling on about some television show but Miki wasn't paying attention.’
      • ‘Ask him about the weather or the federal budget or the price of kumquats, and 15 minutes later he'll still be rattling on and on and on.’
      • ‘Devon couldn't resist rattling on about how good Jessica had been.’
      • ‘She sighed and looked up at her teacher, now rattling on about an assignment on local history.’
      • ‘Bland interrupts his thoughts momentarily, but while she rattles on boringly, his mind again drifts back to memories of Caddy.’
      • ‘Mark and Scott had hit it off spectacularly, rattling on about soccer, airplanes, their favorite movies and t.v. shows, and the like.’
      • ‘While Pataki rattled on endlessly about his shampoo, Whitman became very vocal about missing The Weekly Standard.’
      • ‘‘I love your look today Lori,’ Tiffany by now was clenching her fists as Dale began rattling on.’
      • ‘Worse still, I trapped myself in introducing them by rattling on without actually thinking of what to say.’
      prattle, babble, chatter, gabble, prate, go on, run on, jabber, jibber-jabber, gibber, blether, blather, blither, ramble, maunder, drivel, twitter
      View synonyms


Middle English: related to Middle Dutch and Low German ratelen, of imitative origin.