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Definition of "ratchet" []

  • A mechanism consisting of a pawl that engages the sloping teeth of a wheel or bar, permitting motion in one direction only. (noun)
  • The pawl, wheel, or bar of this mechanism. (noun)
  • 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). (verb-transitive)
  • To increase or decrease by increments. (verb-intransitive)

American Heritage(R) Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright (c) 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

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