To rattle is to make a very rapid, short series of knocking or tapping sounds. You might impatiently rattle the quarters in your pocket as you await your turn at the pinball machine.

Ice cubes rattle in your glass of lemonade, and beads rattle in a jar. Something else that rattles is a baby's rattle, a noisy toy that's filled with small balls or pellets. Figuratively, to rattle someone is to upset or irritate them, like the way a sudden thunderstorm might rattle your timid poodle. Experts trace this word back to the Middle Dutch ratelen, which they believe to be imitative since it sounds a bit like a rattle.

Definitions of rattle

v make short successive sounds

make a hoarse, rattling sound
crackle, crepitate
make a crackling sound
Type of:
go, sound
make a certain noise or sound

v shake and cause to make a rattling noise

Type of:
agitate, shake
move or cause to move back and forth

n a rapid series of short loud sounds (as might be heard with a stethoscope in some types of respiratory disorders)

“the death rattle
rale, rattling
crepitation rale
the crackling sound heard on auscultation when patients with respiratory diseases inhale; associated with tuberculosis and pneumonia and congestive heart failure
Type of:
sound of any kind (especially unintelligible or dissonant sound)

n a baby's toy that makes percussive noises when shaken

Type of:
plaything, toy
an artifact designed to be played with

n loosely connected horny sections at the end of a rattlesnake's tail

Type of:
the posterior part of the body of a vertebrate especially when elongated and extending beyond the trunk or main part of the body

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