- a toothed bar with which a pawl engages.
- (not in technical use) a pawl or the like used with a ratchet or ratchet wheel.
- a mechanism consisting of such a bar or wheel with the pawl.
- ratchet wheel.
- a steady progression up or down: the upward ratchet of oil prices.
verb (used with or without object)
- to move by degrees (often followed by up or down): to ratchet prices up; Interest rates have been ratcheting downward.
- a device in which a toothed rack or wheel is engaged by a pawl to permit motion in one direction only
- the toothed rack or wheel forming part of such a device
- to operate using a ratchet
- (usually foll by up or down) to increase or decrease, esp irreversiblyelectricity prices will ratchet up this year; Hitchcock ratchets up the tension once again
1650s, rochet, from French rochet “bobbin, spindle,” from Italian rocchetto “spool, ratchet,” diminutive of rocca “distaff,” possibly from a Germanic source (cf. Old High German rocko “distaff,” Old Norse rokkr), from Proto-Germanic *rukka-, from PIE root *ruk- “fabric, spun yarn.” Cf. rocket (n.2). Current spelling in English dates from 1721, influenced by synonymous ratch, which perhaps is borrowed from German Rätsche “ratchet.”
1852, from ratchet (n.). Transferred sense attested by 1977. Related: Ratcheted; ratcheting.