AskDefine | Define ratline

Dictionary Definition

ratline n : (nautical) a small horizontal rope between the shrouds of a sailing ship; they form a ladder for climbing aloft [syn: ratlin]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. The net like ropework of the shrouds, formed by cross ropes, allowing sailors to climb up towards the top of the mast.
    • 1980: That meant it was not possible to use ratlines -- that is, to make rope ladders out of the shrouds by adding small connecting pieces of ropes. — Richard W. Unger, The Ship in the Medieval Economy 600-1600, page 34.


Extensive Definition

Ratline may mean:
  • Ratlines (history), Nazi escape routes to South America or the Middle East at the end of World War II
  • Ratline, a tradition at the Virginia Military Institute
  • Ratlines, part of the rigging of a large sailing vessel
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