See more synonyms for rattle on Thesaurus.com
verb (used without object), rat·tled, rat·tling.
  1. to give out or cause a rapid succession of short, sharp sounds, as in consequence of agitation and repeated concussions: The windows rattled in their frames.
  2. to move or go, especially rapidly, with such sounds: The car rattled along the highway.
  3. to talk rapidly; chatter: He rattled on for an hour about his ailments.
verb (used with object), rat·tled, rat·tling.
  1. to cause to rattle: He rattled the doorknob violently.
  2. to drive, send, bring, etc., especially rapidly, with rattling sounds: The wind rattled the metal can across the roadway.
  3. to utter or perform in a rapid or lively manner: to rattle off a list of complaints.
  4. to disconcert or confuse (a person): A sudden noise rattled the speaker.
  5. Hunting. to stir up (a cover).
  1. a rapid succession of short, sharp sounds, as from the collision of hard bodies.
  2. an instrument contrived to make a rattling sound, especially a baby's toy filled with small pellets that rattle when shaken.
  3. the series of horny, interlocking elements at the end of the tail of a rattlesnake, with which it produces a rattling sound.
  4. a rattling sound in the throat, as the death rattle.

Origin of rattle

1250–1300; Middle English ratelen (v.), ratele (noun) (cognate with Dutch ratelen, German rasseln); imitative

Synonyms for rattle

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verb (used with object), rat·tled, rat·tling. Nautical.
  1. to furnish with ratlines (usually followed by down).

Origin of rattle

1720–30; back formation from ratling ratline (taken as verbal noun)
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018

Examples from the Web for rattle

Contemporary Examples of rattle

Historical Examples of rattle

  • He awaited, in an agony of suspense, the rattle of the musketry.

  • All up the Valley the drums' rattle drowned the drone of the locusts in the stubble.

    In the Valley

    Harold Frederic

  • Now the rattle of a key in the hall-door was startlingly audible.

    The Black Bag

    Louis Joseph Vance

  • They also held the oxen's yokes, so that nobody or anything could rattle, or make any noise.

    Welsh Fairy Tales

    William Elliott Griffis

  • Down it went, at all events, with a rattle that might easily have broken the glass.

British Dictionary definitions for rattle


  1. to make or cause to make a rapid succession of short sharp sounds, as of loose pellets colliding when shaken in a container
  2. to shake or cause to shake with such a soundthe explosion rattled the windows
  3. to send, move, drive, etc, with such a soundthe car rattled along the country road
  4. (intr foll by on) to chatter idly; talk, esp at lengthhe rattled on about his work
  5. (tr ; foll by off, out etc) to recite perfunctorily or rapidly
  6. (tr) informal to disconcert; make frightened or anxious
  1. a rapid succession of short sharp sounds
  2. an object, esp a baby's toy, filled with small pellets that rattle when shaken
  3. a series of loosely connected horny segments on the tail of a rattlesnake, vibrated to produce a rattling sound
  4. any of various European scrophulariaceous plants having a capsule in which the seeds rattle, such as Pedicularis palustris (red rattle) and Rhinanthus minor (yellow rattle)
  5. idle chatter
  6. an idle chatterer
  7. med another name for rale

Word Origin for rattle

C14: from Middle Dutch ratelen; related to Middle High German razzen, of imitative origin


  1. (tr often foll by down) to fit (a vessel or its rigging) with ratlines

Word Origin for rattle

C18: back formation from rattling, variant of ratline


  1. Sir Simon . born 1955, English conductor. Principal conductor (1980–91) and music director (1991–98) of the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra; chief conductor of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra from 2002
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 rattle

c.1300 (intransitive), "To make a quick sharp noise with frequent repetitions and collisions of bodies not very sonorous: when bodies are sonorous, it is called jingling" [Johnson]. Perhaps in Old English but not recorded; if not, from Middle Dutch ratelen, probably of imitative origin (cf. German rasseln "to rattle," Greek kradao "I rattle"). Sense of "utter smartly and rapidly" is late 14c. Meaning "to go along loosely and noisily" is from 1550s. Transitive sense is late 14c.; figurative sense of "fluster" is first recorded 1869. Related: Rattled; rattling.


c.1500, "rapid succession of short, sharp sounds," from rattle (v.). As a child's toy, recorded from 1510s. As a sound made in the throat (especially of one near death) from 1752.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper