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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. 2017.
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Examples from the Web for rattler
Historical Examples
  • But the rattler that had spent the night in it stuck out his head.

    The Prairie Schooner William Francis Hooker
  • I could feel that rattler on my arm all the way to Lake Tahoe.

    Vigorish Gordon Randall Garrett
  • Lebrun had never been seen to lift his hand, but he was more dreaded than a rattler.

    Gunman's Reckoning Max Brand
  • 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
  • That "Cyclone" was a rattler to go, and the sweetest thing to steer that ever walked the waters.

    Life On The Mississippi, Complete Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
  • Shun idleness as you do the sting of a hornet, or the bite of a rattler.

    The Choctaw Freedmen Robert Elliott Flickinger
  • The rattler seemed to have extracted the poison from her system, rather than injected it.

    The Carter Girls Nell Speed
  • Its sting, too, is about as dangerous as the fangs of the rattler.

  • Certain young men in San Francisco called her a rattler, and certainly there was nothing slow about her.

    Fishing With The Fly Charles F. Orvis and Others
  • "She ought to remember that people make a use of coming here," said rattler.

    The Prime Minister Anthony Trollope
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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