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Etymology 1[edit]

Verb from Middle English [Term?], either from Old English [Term?] (not attested) or Middle Dutch ratelen, ultimately imitative. The noun (c. 1500) is from the verb.


rattle (plural rattles)

a baby with a rattle (2)
  1. (onomatopoeia) a sound made by loose objects shaking or vibrating against one another.
    I wish they would fix the rattle under my dashboard.
    • (Can we date this quote by Matthew Prior and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      The rattle of a drum.
  2. A baby’s toy designed to make sound when shaken, usually containing loose grains or pellets in a hollow container.
  3. A device that makes a rattling sound such as put on an animal so its location can be heard.
  4. (music) A musical instrument that makes a rattling sound.
    • (Can we date this quote by Sir Walter Raleigh and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      The rattles of Isis and the cymbals of Brasilea nearly enough resemble each other.
  5. (dated) Noisy, rapid talk.
    • (Can we date this quote by Hakewill and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      All this ado about the golden age is but an empty rattle and frivolous conceit.
  6. (now rare) Trivial chatter; gossip.
    • 1782, Frances Burney, Cecilia, III.v.5:
      “And pray where, Lady Honoria,” cried Mrs. Delvile, “do you contrive to pick up all this rattle?”
  7. (dated) A noisy, senseless talker; a jabberer.
    • 1911, Thomas Babington Macaulay, “Goldsmith, Oliver”, in 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica:
      It may seem strange that a man who wrote with so much perspicuity, vivacity, and grace, should have been, whenever he took a part in conversation, an empty, noisy, blundering rattle.
  8. A scolding; a sharp rebuke.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of Heylin to this entry?)
  9. (zoology) Any organ of an animal having a structure adapted to produce a rattling sound.
    The rattle of the rattlesnake is composed of the hardened terminal scales, loosened in succession, but not cast off, and modified in form so as to make a series of loose, hollow joints.
  10. The noise produced in the throat by air passing through mucus which the lungs struggle to clear.
  11. The noise in the throat produced by the air in passing through mucus which the lungs are unable to expel - sometimes occurs as a person nears death; death rattle.
  12. Any plant of the genus Rhinanthus, whose seeds produce a rattling noise in the wind.
Derived terms[edit]


rattle (third-person singular simple present rattles, present participle rattling, simple past and past participle rattled)

  1. (transitive, ergative) To create a rattling sound by shaking or striking.
    to rattle a chain
    Rattle the can of cat treats if you need to find Fluffy.
    • 2011 February 5, Michael Kevin Darling, “Tottenham 2 - 1 Bolton”, in BBC[1]:
      It was a deflating end to the drama for the hosts and they appeared ruffled, with Bolton going close to a leveller when Johan Elmander rattled the bar with a header from Matt Taylor’s cross.
  2. (transitive, informal) To scare, startle, unsettle, or unnerve.
    • (Can we date this quote by P. G. Wodehouse and provide title, author’s full name, and other details?)
      “Tut!” said old Bittlesham. “Tut is right”, I agreed. Then the rumminess of the thing struck me. “But if you haven’t dropped a parcel over the race,” I said, “why are you looking so rattled?”
    • 2014, Richard Rae, "Manchester United humbled by MK Dons after Will Grigg hits double", The Guardian, 26 August 2014:
      That United were rattled, mentally as well as at times physically – legitimately so – was beyond question. Nick Powell clipped a crisp drive a foot over the bar, but otherwise Milton Keynes had the best of the remainder of the first half.
  3. (intransitive) To make a rattling noise; to make noise by or from shaking.
    I wish the dashboard in my car would quit rattling.
  4. (transitive, obsolete) To assail, annoy, or stun with a ratting noise.
  5. (transitive, obsolete) To scold; to rail at.
    (Can we find and add a quotation of L'Estrange to this entry?)
  6. To drive or ride briskly, so as to make a clattering.
    We rattled along for a couple of miles.
  7. To make a clatter with one's voice; to talk rapidly and idly; often with on or away.
    She rattled on for an hour.
The translations below need to be checked and inserted above into the appropriate translation tables, removing any numbers. Numbers do not necessarily match those in definitions. See instructions at Wiktionary:Entry layout#Translations.

Derived terms[edit]

See also[edit]

Etymology 2[edit]

From Arabic رَطْل(raṭl), variant of classical رِطْل(riṭl), ultimately from Ancient Greek λίτρα (lítra). Doublet of liter.


rattle (plural rattles)

  1. (historical units of measure) Alternative form of rottol: a former Middle Eastern and North African unit of dry weight usually equal to 1–5 lb (0.5–2.5 kg).