What does ratchet mean?

Ratchet is a slang term variously insulting a person, usually a black woman, as whorish, low-class, and trashy.


It's become synonymous with the slang word ghetto and sometimes has a positive connotation, like excellent.

Examples of ratchet


Examples of ratchet
My co worker is so ratchet. She brings her bundles into work to show all of my coworkers & they're WHITE! They have no idea about the cost or process & she's over here trying to explain what a closure is. My supervisor goes "u went to the post office & were late for that?" 💀
@UserNotFound808, December, 2018
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

Where does ratchet come from?

The Hunt

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 wretchedAnother theory for its origin is that ratchet comes from ratchet up, or “bringing something up in intensity.”

Calling someone ratchet means you think they have no class and lack a proper upbringing but they don’t know it (e.g., trashy). It’s especially used for a woman considered promiscuous or ghetto.

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 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.

Who uses ratchet?

Ratchet is mainly directed at women and used as an insult. It is particularly slung at black women considered uneducated and whorish, accused of doing things like hitting the club when pregnant.

Ratchet can be used like the slang ghetto, which typically slurs behaviors stereotyping poor, black people.

But ratchet 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.

Ratchet women, however, 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.


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