Definitions

from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition

  • n. A mechanism consisting of a pawl that engages the sloping teeth of a wheel or bar, permitting motion in one direction only.
  • n. The pawl, wheel, or bar of this mechanism.
  • transitive v. To cause to increase or decrease by increments: "Some companies . . . may make things worse if they seek to ratchet down their medical expenses by limiting benefits for psychological or psychiatric care” ( Newsweek).
  • intransitive v. To increase or decrease by increments.

from Wiktionary, Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License

  • n. A pawl, click, or detent for holding or propelling a ratchet wheel, or ratch, etc.
  • n. A mechanism composed of a ratchet wheel, or ratch and pawl.
  • n. A ratchet wrench.
  • n. A procedure or regulation that goes in one direction, usually up.
  • v. To cause to become incremented or decremented.
  • v. To increment or decrement.

from the GNU version of the Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • n. A pawl, click, or detent, for holding or propelling a ratchet wheel, or ratch, etc.
  • n. A mechanism composed of a ratchet wheel, or ratch, and pawl. See Ratchet wheel, below, and 2d Ratch.

from The Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia

  • n. A detent or pivoted piece designed to fit into the teeth of a ratchet-wheel, permitting the wheel to rotate in one direction, but not in the other.
  • n. In printing, a notched straight blade of brass which rotates the pinions attached to the movable clamps of an electrotype plate mounted upon a block.

from WordNet 3.0 Copyright 2006 by Princeton University. All rights reserved.

  • v. move by degrees in one direction only
  • n. mechanical device consisting of a toothed wheel or rack engaged with a pawl that permits it to move in only one direction

Etymologies

French rochet, from Old French rocquet, head of a lance (from the shape of the teeth), of Germanic origin.
(American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition)

Examples

  • Maybe you believe government spending has a built in ratchet that prevents it from ever really coming down, no matter what party is in power.

    Matthew Yglesias » Cutting the Stimulus

  • In a moment, opening certain ratchet-holes in the wall of the carriage, he has slided these in at a suitable height above, and covered each with cushions and sleeping-rug.

    Railway-Cars in America

  • But you just noted that it was more like a ratchet, which isn't a motor.

    Analogy, How Scientifically Powerful is It?

  • Every mechanic knows that a ratchet is a toothed wheel or bar used to prevent a gizmo from moving backward.

    No Uncertain Terms

  • It has been defanged a bit over the years, starting with Referendum C, which got rid of the so-called ratchet effect and allowed a five-year timeout on revenue limits, so the state could keep the money it collected over TABOR limits.

    Denver Post: News: Breaking: Local

  • He thinks that so long as the total city budget has grown year to year, and it has, that the ratchet is a myth.

    Colorado Springs Independent

  • The ratchet is a fine-tooth model, meaning it takes less than five degrees of swing to activate the ratcheting mechanism.

    Toolmonger: The Week In Tools

  • We do not believe that any of these so-called ratchet clauses should be used to hand over more powers from Britain to the EU.

    British Blogs

  • TABOR has been defanged a bit over the years, starting with Ref C, which got rid of the so-called ratchet effect and allowed a five-year timeout on revenue limits, so the state could keep the money it collected over TABOR limits.

    Summit Daily News - Top Stories

  • The hames have a series of holes (illogically called a ratchet), and the logger-head's two hook-ends are fitted into two of these.

    VERBATIM: The Language Quarterly Vol IV No 3

Comments

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  • Yes! Rrrat-chet. Rrrat-chet.

    September 10, 2009

  • I love this word. I can almost hear the wheel moving.

    September 9, 2009