The Meaning of Ratchet: What It Is and How To Use It

Have you ever been called ratchet? Have you ever heard someone else being called ratchet? This article will define the meaning of ratchet.

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The word ratchet has two distinct meanings as a slang term and a formal term. This article will cover how to use the word ratchet in its various contexts, the origin of the word ratchet, synonyms and antonyms, example sentences containing the word ratchet, and translations of ratchet. 

What Does the Word Ratchet Mean?

According to Dictionary, the word ratchet is a slang term that means excellent or exciting. This is a reclamation of the word, which can also be used as an insult meaning trashy or promiscuous. The pronunciation of ratchet is ˈrætʃɪt, and ratchet is two syllables – ratch-et.

Ratchet is a controversial term. While it has been reclaimed in recent years, it has often been used as a derogatory term for many Black women and other women of color. Calling people ratchet does not always have positive connotations, and this former hip-hop slang can still be taken as an insult or considered appropriative.

Ratchet also refers to a type of mechanical device. A mechanism consisting of a pawl comes into contact with the sloping teeth of a toothed wheel or a bar. Therefore, it only allows motion in one direction. The word ratchet can also refer to the pieces of this mechanism. 

Finally, ratchet can mean to increase in intensity.

What Is the Origin of Ratchet?

According to The Free Dictionary, the word ratchet is French in origin. This word comes from the French rochet, which is a variant of the Middle French rocquet, Old French roquet, and Old French rocquet, meaning a blunt lance-head. These terms are of Germanic origin, from the Old High German rocko distaff.

As for the slang term ratchet, this comes from the nickname for Shreveport, Louisiana: Ratchet City. In the late 1990s, rappers from Louisiana began using this term in their songs. This term comes from the pronunciation of the word wretched, implying a low class upbringing.

This word rose to popularity with the 2005 song “Do Da Ratchet” by Rapper Lil Boosie. Many other songs have featured this term, such as Juicy J’s “Bandz a Make Her Dance,” Nicki Minaj’s “Right By Side,” and LL Cool J’s “Ratchet.”

In 2013, a video called “Ratchet Girl Anthem” broke the internet. This comedy video features Emmanuel and Phillip Hudson and has over 45 million views on YouTube. 2012 was called the year of the ratchet, and ratchet culture definitely had its moment in the spotlight in the 2010s.

How Can Ratchet Be Used in a Sentence?

The word ratchet can be used as both a slang term and a regular word. It is important to know how to use this word in each of these specific contexts. See if you can identify how the word ratchet is used in each of the below example sentences.

The investors tried to ratchet up money to pay the employees’ wages, but tension ratcheted up amongst the employees while waiting for their paycheck.

The men judged the seemingly ratchet girl as she walked into the club and got drinks for free, but they did not know that she actually had a Ph.D. in neuroscience and a day job as a surgeon.

The blades of the ratchet were wound too tight on the bobbin, and we had to use a screwdriver and wrenches to loosen it.

What Are Translations of Ratchet?

Nice Translator lists translations of ratchet below. 

  • Malayalam: ruthttuet
  • German: Ratsche
  • Urdu: شافٹ
  • Ukrainian: храповик
  • Marathi: ratchet
  • Welsh: ratchet
  • Basque: ratchet
  • Swedish: ratchet
  • Polish: zapadkowy
  • French: rochet
  • Greek: αναστολεύς
  • Hebrew: מַחגֵר
  • Arabic: اسئلة
  • Croatian: ratchet
  • Russian: храповик
  • Serbian: ракетница
  • Dutch: ratel
  • Turkish: cırcır
  • Estonian: reket
  • Indonesian: roda bergigi searah
  • Finnish: räikkä
  • Latvian: ratchet
  • Kannada: ರಾಟ್ಚೆಟ್
  • Gujarati: રચેટ
  • Slovak: račňa
  • Czech: ráčna
  • Chinese (PRC): 棘轮
  • Spanish: trinquete
  • Hindi: शाफ़्ट
  • Hungarian: racsnis
  • Telugu: రాట్చెట్
  • Chinese (Taiwan): 棘輪
  • Lithuanian: terkšlė
  • Japanese: ラチェット
  • Amharic: Rakheet
  • Portuguese (Portugal): chave catraca
  • Tamil: ராட்செட்
  • Catalan: ratchet
  • Korean: 래칫 휠 장치
  • Thai: วงล้อ
  • Portuguese (Brazil): chave catraca

What Are Synonyms of the Word Ratchet?

Since the word ratchet can be considered slang, it is important to know synonyms of ratchet. Using slang terms is not always acceptable in different circumstances. By looking at the below list from Power Thesaurus, you can learn how to refer to someone or something that is ratchet without using a slang term. 

Beware: many of these words are still considered insulting.

  • base
  • brassy
  • cheap
  • cheap and nasty
  • cheaper
  • cheapest
  • cheapjack
  • cheapo
  • cheesy
  • coarse
  • common
  • contemptible
  • crappy
  • crude
  • crummy
  • despicable
  • dowdy
  • flash
  • flashy
  • garish
  • gaudy
  • gimcrack
  • glitzy
  • inelegant
  • inferior
  • junky
  • loud
  • lousy
  • low-grade
  • low-rent
  • meretricious
  • miserable
  • no-good
  • paltry
  • poor
  • poor-quality
  • pulp
  • rubbishy
  • rude
  • schlocky
  • second-rate
  • shabby
  • shoddy
  • sleazy
  • styleless
  • substandard
  • tacky
  • tasteless
  • tatty
  • tawdry
  • third-rate
  • ticky-tacky
  • trashy
  • trivial
  • trumpery
  • two-bit
  • unfashionable
  • unhandsome
  • unstylish
  • useless
  • valueless
  • vulgar
  • worthless

What Are Antonyms of the Word Ratchet?

Power Thesaurus also lists many opposites of ratchet.

  • admirable
  • alluring
  • appealing
  • attractive
  • beauteous
  • charming
  • chic
  • classy
  • dapper
  • dashing
  • dazzling
  • delightful
  • deluxe
  • dicty
  • divine
  • dressy
  • elegant
  • enticing
  • excellent
  • exclusive
  • expensive
  • exquisite
  • fair
  • fancy
  • fascinating
  • fashionable
  • fine
  • foxy
  • good-looking
  • gorgeous
  • graceful
  • grand
  • handsome
  • high-class
  • high-toned
  • in vogue
  • lovely
  • luxurious
  • magnificent
  • marvelous
  • mod
  • modish
  • natty
  • plush
  • plushy
  • posh
  • ravishing
  • refined
  • ritzy
  • sexy
  • sharp
  • sightly
  • smart
  • snappy
  • snazzy
  • sophisticated
  • spiffy
  • statuesque
  • stunning
  • stylish
  • superior
  • swank
  • swanky
  • swish
  • tony
  • trendy
  • upmarket
  • upper-class
  • upscale
  • well-formed


The word ratchet has three distinct meanings. First, it can be used as an offesnive slang term to refer to something or someone that is trashy or classless. It can also be used as a noun to refer to a certain type of mechanism or as a verb to mean to increase in number or intensity. 


  1. Trashy synonyms – 766 Words and Phrases for Trashy | Power Thesaurus 
  2. Classy synonyms – 527 Words and Phrases for Classy | Power Thesaurus 
  3. Ratchet – definition of ratchet | The Free Dictionary 
  4. Ratchet | 
  5. Ratchet | Nice Translator