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.
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 (compare 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.
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