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[rat-ler] /ˈræt lər/
a rattlesnake.
a person or thing that rattles.
Informal. a fast freight train.
Origin of rattler
late Middle English
late Middle English word dating back to 1400-50; See origin at rattle1, -er1 Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018.
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Examples from the Web for rattler
Historical Examples
  • There was not a stick in sight, and not a stone bigger than a hazelnut; but there was the rattler.

    A Woman Tenderfoot Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson
  • I guessed a rattler, or a bear, or—or something had got busy scaring you to death.

    The Law-Breakers Ridgwell Cullum
  • Jasper Swope had whirled back from the blow as a rattler throws his coils.

    Hidden Water Dane Coolidge
  • I bought the Brantlock Ranch from you the other day, rattler.

  • I could feel that rattler on my arm all the way to Lake Tahoe.

    Vigorish Gordon Randall Garrett
  • But the rattler was more surely fatal when it struck than the bullet.

    Land of the Burnt Thigh

    Edith Eudora Kohl
  • But from what you say, I'd rather be in bed with a rattler than have a treaty with a Vegan.

    Upstarts L. J. Stecher
  • It's 'bout like puttin' your hand in a rattler's den to git him by the tail, I'd say.

    Ride Proud, Rebel! Andre Alice Norton
  • The black snake doesn't sting you, and yet he'll kill the rattler every time.

    The Phantom of the River Edward S. Ellis
  • Shun idleness as you do the sting of a hornet, or the bite of a rattler.

    The Choctaw Freedmen Robert Elliott Flickinger
British Dictionary definitions for rattler


something that rattles
(mainly US & Canadian) an informal name for rattlesnake
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for rattler

mid-15c., "one who talks overmuch," agent noun from rattle (v.). From c.1300 as a surname. As short for rattlesnake, 1827.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Slang definitions & phrases for rattler



  1. A railroad train: a very luxurious rattler (1903+)
  2. A fast freight train or a freight car (1913+ Hoboes)
  3. A rattlesnake (1827+)

Related Terms

cage rattler

[in the first sense, rattler, ''coach,'' is found by 1630]

The Dictionary of American Slang, Fourth Edition by Barbara Ann Kipfer, PhD. and Robert L. Chapman, Ph.D.
Copyright (C) 2007 by HarperCollins Publishers.
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