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c.1300 (intransitive), "To make a quick sharp noise with frequent repetitions and collisions of bodies not very sonorous: when bodies are sonorous, it is called jingling" [Johnson]. Perhaps in Old English but not recorded; if not, from Middle Dutch ratelen, probably of imitative origin (cf. German rasseln "to rattle," Greek kradao "I rattle"). Sense of "utter smartly and rapidly" is late 14c. Meaning "to go along loosely and noisily" is from 1550s. Transitive sense is late 14c.; figurative sense of "fluster" is first recorded 1869. Related: Rattled; rattling.
c.1500, "rapid succession of short, sharp sounds," from rattle (v.). As a child's toy, recorded from 1510s. As a sound made in the throat (especially of one near death) from 1752.
percussion instrument consisting of resonant objects strung together and set in a sliding frame or enclosed in a container such that when it is shaken the parts strike against each other, producing sounds. In many societies, rattles are associated with the supernatural and accompany religious rites. Slung rattles (shells, bones, hooves, or similar objects strung on a cord or tied in bunches and attached to a dancer's body) are among the earliest musical instruments, appearing, along with gourd and tube rattles, in prehistoric times. Gourd rattles are particularly prominent as ritual instruments. Where gourds are uncommon, similar rattles are made of basketry, wood, clay, or other material. Gourd rattles known from their use in popular Latin American dance bands are the cabaca (Portuguese for "calabash"), a gourd enclosed in a beaded mesh, and maracas. Rattles are widely considered to have magical power, from the turtle rattles of the Native Americans of the northeastern United States and the gourd rattles of Amazonian Brazil to the shaman accoutrements of Africa and Oceania.