any of several New World pit vipers of the genera Crotalus and Sistrurus, having a rattle composed of a series of horny, interlocking elements at the end of the tail.

Origin of rattlesnake

An Americanism dating back to 1620–30; rattle1 + snake
Dictionary.com Unabridged Based on the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2019

Examples from the Web for rattlesnake

Contemporary Examples of rattlesnake

Historical Examples of rattlesnake

  • He spoke as if the prisoner had been a rattlesnake or a sheep-stealing wolf.

    The Underdog

    F. Hopkinson Smith

  • It is a blessing that a rattlesnake has to coil before it can spring.

    A Woman Tenderfoot

    Grace Gallatin Seton-Thompson

  • Once or twice she had to jump to escape the strike of a Rattlesnake.

    Johnny Bear

    E. T. Seton

  • Only later did I notice the rattlesnake over which I had jumped.

  • I'd as soon set down with a—a rattlesnake as I would with some humans.


    Joseph C. Lincoln

British Dictionary definitions for rattlesnake



any of the venomous New World snakes constituting the genera Crotalus and Sistrurus, such as C. horridus (black or timber rattlesnake): family Crotalidae (pit vipers). They have a series of loose horny segments on the tail that are vibrated to produce a buzzing or whirring sound
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 rattlesnake

1620s, from rattle + snake (n.).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper