ratch·et / ˈrachit/ • n. a device consisting of a bar or wheel with a set of angled teeth in which a pawl, cog, or tooth engages, allowing motion in one direction only. ∎ a bar or wheel that has such a set of teeth. ∎ fig. a situation or process that is perceived to be deteriorating or changing steadily in a series of irreversible steps: the best way to reverse the ratchet of socialism. • v. (ratch·et·ed , ratch·et·ing ) [tr.] operate by means of a ratchet. ∎ (ratchet something up/down) fig. cause something to rise (or fall) as a step in what is perceived as a steady and irreversible process: the Bank of Japan ratcheted up interest rates again. ∎ [intr.] make a sound like a ratchet.
pawl / pôl/ • n. a pivoted curved bar or lever whose free end engages with the teeth of a cogwheel or ratchet so that the wheel or ratchet can only turn or move one way. ∎ each of a set of short stout bars that engage with the whelps and prevent a capstan, windlass, or winch from recoiling.