adverb or adjective

hay·​wire ˈhā-ˌwī(-ə)r How to pronounce haywire (audio)
: being out of order or having gone wrong
The system went haywire.
Both rising inflation and fears about interest rate hikes have caused the crypto and tech markets to go haywire lately.Chris Neiger
After … Austin Ekeler followed with a 12-yard run to the Miami eight-yard line, things went a bit haywire for the Chargers.Austin Knoblauch and Jeff Miller
"Prior to running, I also had some health issues. My metabolism was haywire. …"Collette O'Hagan
: emotionally or mentally upset or out of control
is going haywire with grief

Did you know?

The noun haywire refers to a type of wire once used in baling hay and sometimes for makeshift repairs. This hurried and temporary use of haywire gave rise to the adjective (and sometimes adverb) haywire. When the adjective was first used in the early 20th century, it was primarily found in the phrase “haywire outfit,” which originally denoted a poorly equipped group of loggers, and then anything that was flimsy or patched together. This led to a “hastily patched-up” sense, which in turn gave us the now-common meaning, “being out of order or having gone wrong.” The “emotionally or mentally upset or out of control” sense of haywire may have been suggested by the tendency of the relatively weak and rust-prone wire to fail at inopportune times, or to get tangled around legs, or possibly to the disorderly appearance of the temporary repair jobs for which it was used.

Examples of haywire in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web The reason the corals risk starvation is that the algae’s biology starts to go haywire at those temperatures. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, 14 May 2020 The beat, though played on a physical drum kit, feels like one of later Kraftwerk’s methodical midtempo pulses — until things go psychedelically haywire. Jon Pareles, New York Times, 7 May 2020 Companies and consumers flooded U.S. banks with a record $1 trillion of deposits in the first quarter, when markets went haywire and America went dark to stop the spread of the new coronavirus. David Benoit, WSJ, 23 Apr. 2020 As the voyagers’ ship gets closer to the sun, everything on board goes more and more haywire, and Boyle—who can depict the onset of madness better than almost anyone working—dials up the chaos. David Sims, The Atlantic, 10 Apr. 2020 The tornado hit, there were a couple days of cleanup and then everything went haywire. Matt Wake | Mwake@al.com, al, 1 Apr. 2020 If a system for placing ads goes haywire, that’s not good, but the consequences are a lot less severe than a system dispatching $1 million worth of products to a store that’s now shuttered due to social distancing measures. Jeremy Kahn, Fortune, 24 Mar. 2020 House chips, another option, were admirably thin, but something went haywire in the frying — the chips that night weren't crisp. Carol Deptolla, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 24 Feb. 2020 If there’s power, the potential for things to go haywire is much higher, say storage facility owners. oregonlive, 14 Feb. 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'haywire.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


from the use of baling wire for makeshift repairs

First Known Use

1929, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Time Traveler
The first known use of haywire was in 1929


Dictionary Entries Near haywire

Cite this Entry

“Haywire.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/haywire. Accessed 28 Sep. 2023.

Kids Definition


adverb or adjective
hay·​wire -ˌwī(ə)r How to pronounce haywire (audio)
: being out of order : not working
the radio went haywire

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