or rat·lin


noun Nautical.

any of the small ropes or lines that traverse the shrouds horizontally and serve as steps for going aloft.
Also ratline stuff. three-stranded, right-laid, tarred hemp stuff of from 6 to 24 threads, used for ratlines, lashings, etc.

Origin of ratline

First recorded in 1475–85; earlier ratling, radelyng < ?
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for ratline

Historical Examples of ratline

  • It was above the second ratline in the fore-shrouds, and fully six feet over the rail.

    Farthest North

    Fridtjof Nansen

  • In walking along her gun-deck, he accidentally ran against a ratline, by which one of her starboard guns was discharged.

  • Collins, bring your party into this room; and do not forget to bring along that length of ratline that I told you to have ready.

  • Sakr-el-Bahr drank slowly, his eyes never leaving the vessel, whose every ratline was clearly defined by now in the pellucid air.

    The Sea-Hawk

    Raphael Sabatini

  • A musket-ball carried away a ratline above his head, just as he reached forward.

British Dictionary definitions for ratline




nautical any of a series of light lines tied across the shrouds of a sailing vessel for climbing aloft

Word Origin for ratline

C15: of unknown origin
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

Word Origin and History for ratline

"thin rope," especially as used on sailing ships, late 15c., originally ratling, of unknown origin; spelling ratline attested from 1773, by influence of line (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper