Meaning of ratchet

ratch•et

Pronunciation: (rach'it), [key]
— n.
  1. a toothed bar with which a pawl engages.
  2. (not in technical use) a pawl or the like used with a ratchet or ratchet wheel.
  3. a mechanism consisting of such a bar or wheel with the pawl.
  4. See
  5. a steady progression up or down: the upward ratchet of oil prices.
—v.t., v.i.
  1. to move by degrees (often fol. by up or down): to ratchet prices up; Interest rates have been ratcheting downward.
Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Copyright © 1997, by Random House, Inc., on Infoplease.
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