verb (used with or without object)
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Origin of ratchet1
Words nearby ratchet
Definition for ratchet (2 of 2)
Origin of ratchet2
OTHER WORDS FROM ratchetratch·et·ness, noun
ABOUT THIS WORD
What else does ratchet mean?
Ratchet is a slang term that can mean “exciting” or “excellent,” often used as a term of empowerment among women. Some may also use ratchet for when they are feeling “bad” in some way.
The term has been previously used, however, as an insult characterizing a woman as being “overdramatic” or “promiscuous.”
Where did the term ratchet come from?
Ratchet may have originated in Shreveport, Louisiana, lovingly nicknamed Ratchet City. Rappers from there were using ratchet in songs since the late 1990s, based on a regional pronunciation of wretched. Another theory for its origin is that ratchet comes from ratchet up, or “bringing something up in intensity.”
Calling someone ratchet has historically meant you think they have no class and lack a proper upbringing but they don’t know it (e.g., trashy). It was especially used for a woman considered promiscuous or trashy.
Ratchet was notably used by Rapper Lil Boosie in his 2005 song “Do Da Ratchet.” In 2012, Nicki Minaj used it on her “Right By Side” as did Juicy J on his “Bandz a Make Her Dance” and LL Cool J on his “Ratchet”: “She’s so ratchet, she’s so ratchet / But she’s so bad we could throw cash at it.”
Many in the media called 2012 the year of the ratchet. They also noted that the hip-hop slang developed positive connotations, like cool or fierce.
Comedy duo Emmanuel and Phillip Hudson released a 2013 video titled “Ratchet Girl Anthem,” where the pair impersonate two, classless ratchet girls judging other ratchets. It has since had over 45 million views.
In 2018, Drake also released a song “Ratchet Happy Birthday” on Side B of his Scorpion album.
How to use the term ratchet
It’s important to note that ratchet, depending on user and context, can be considered sexist or racist. It can also be considered positive or ironic, especially when used by women of women.
Ratchet, as noted, was and still sometimes is used to insult women. It has been particularly slung at Black women considered uneducated and whorish, accused of doing things like “hitting the club when pregnant.”
City girls really bring the ratchet side of me out owwww pic.twitter.com/juAdFYpA6Z
— Nuskiii😝 (@nudoteightt) December 10, 2018
Ratchet women persisted as a stereotype in the 2010s. Her style featured overdone eyebrows, long fingernails, conspicuously fake weaves, gaudy jewelry, and twerking. Pop star Miley Cyrus was accused of appropriating minority ratchet culture in 2013.
But ratchet (as has ghetto) has been experiencing something of a reclamation. Beyoncé and Lady Gaga, for instance, wore earrings with the word ratchet gilded in gold. Where the word isn’t becoming empowered, it is becoming “exciting,” used like lit.
And so, someone women may use ratchet of themselves to mean “excellent.” They may also use it in a more self-deprecating manner when they are feeling crummy, unappealing, or down in some way.
More examples of ratchet:
“Many Teen Mom 2 fans were upset after Kailyn Lowry made a low-key racist move when she described her co-star Briana DeJesus as “ratchet” during a heated argument this season, which is a slang term that has a racially-charged meaning. Now, Bri’s sister Brittany DeJesus is calling Kail out and explaining why it’s prejudiced for someone to use the term “ratchet” to describe a woman of color.”
—Emma Hernandez, In Touch, May 2018
This content is not meant to be a formal definition of this term. Rather, it is an informal summary that seeks to provide supplemental information and context important to know or keep in mind about the term’s history, meaning, and usage.
Example sentences from the Web for ratchet
Tensions can only get ratcheted up so high before it really boils over.Our misinformation problem is about to get much, much worse|Sean Illing|October 6, 2020|Vox
Meanwhile, the pandemic has put a big fat pause on economic activity, squeezing investment banking fees and ratcheting up the risk of underperforming loans.
The unspeakability of the looming danger ratchets up the sense of dread.
We started the season in May ratcheting up our footprint from one to 10 DNR-operated Bell UH-1 Hueys.West Coast states are calling in all their best planes and helicopters to fight fires|By Dan Pimentel/Flying|September 25, 2020|Popular Science
Every message, action and gesture seems calculated to ratchet up the anxiety of those who are listening.Even After Hobby Lobby, the Religious Right is Still Terrified|Gene Robinson|July 6, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Sean Hannity versus Michael Savage—these two conservative radio hosts have recently ratchet up their rivalry.George Zimmerman Wants to Profit Off Trayvon Martin’s Death|Dean Obeidallah|February 5, 2014|DAILY BEAST
Dancers are suspended in midair like the cast of a ratchet Cirque du Soleil performance.
“Pour It Up” exists in a magical, ratchet room of requirement.
You should ratchet up the sanction and make it clear to Iran that they won't get away with it.
We think a ratchet wheel should not be employed with equidistant pallets.An Analysis of the Lever Escapement|H. R. Playtner
The piston having a spiral groove is turned by this ratchet as it moves down.
By means of a cut-off the ratchet bars can be prevented from acting, and the piece used as a single loader.
On the return of the piston, the pall drops into the ratchet and then the piston is turned.
Yet the ratchet of time will work along its daily cogs, and doubtless bring it safe within our grasp.The Letters of William James, Vol. II|William James