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1. To increase in speed, intensity, or force over several incremental degrees. Campaigns on both sides of the referendum have been ratcheting up over the last few days. The film's tension ratchets up from beginning to end, leaving you on the edge of your seat by the time the credits roll. Make sure you don't let the engine overheat as it ratchets up, or it could end up burning out.
2. To cause something to increase in speed, intensity, or force over several incremental degrees. In this usage, a noun or pronoun can be used between "ratchet" and "up." We've been ratcheting up our negotiations with the militants to try and bring the hostages home safely. We need to ratchet our efforts up if we hope to win the qualifying round next week.
1. To cause something to increase in increments: The motor was running too slow to run the pump, so we ratcheted up the speed until it worked. We won't resolve our disagreements if you ratchet up our discussions into big arguments.
2. To increase by increments: The tension ratcheted up as the hostage crisis wore on.