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A ratchet featuring a pawl (2) and gear (1) mounted on a base (3)


  • IPA(key): /ˈɹætʃɪt/
  • (file)
  • Rhymes: -ætʃɪt

Etymology 1Edit

From French rochet (bobbin, spindle, ratchet), from Italian rocchetto (spool, ratchet).


ratchet (plural ratchets)

  1. A pawl, click, or detent for holding or propelling a ratchet wheel, or ratch, etc.
  2. A mechanism composed of a ratchet wheel, or ratch and pawl.
  3. A ratchet wrench.
  4. (by extension) A procedure or regulation that goes in one direction, usually up.
    • 2012 December 14, Simon Jenkins, “We mustn't overreact to North Korea boys' toys”, in The Guardian Weekly[1], volume 188, number 2, page 23:
      The threat of terrorism to the British lies in the overreaction to it of British governments. Each one in turn clicks up the ratchet of surveillance, intrusion and security. Each one diminishes liberty.
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.


ratchet (third-person singular simple present ratchets, present participle ratcheting, simple past and past participle ratcheted)

  1. (transitive) To cause to become incremented or decremented.
    It's time to ratchet up the intensity level here.
  2. (intransitive) To increment or decrement.

Etymology 2Edit

Possibly a variant (representing a Southern or specifically Louisianan pronunciation) of wretched.


ratchet (comparative more ratchet, superlative most ratchet)

  1. (US, slang) Ghetto; unseemly, indecorous.
Derived termsEdit