pig·​gy·​back | \ ˈpi-gē-ˌbak How to pronounce piggyback (audio) \
variants: or less commonly \ ˈpi-​gē-​ How to pronounce piggyback (audio) , ˈpi-​kə-​ \

Definition of piggyback

 (Entry 1 of 4)

1 : up on the back and shoulders
2 : on or as if on the back of another especially : on a railroad flatcar


variants: or less commonly pickaback

Definition of piggyback (Entry 2 of 4)

1 : the act of carrying piggyback
2 : the movement of loaded truck trailers on railroad flatcars


variants: or less commonly pickaback

Definition of piggyback (Entry 3 of 4)

1 : marked by being up on the shoulders and back a child needs hugging, tussling, and piggyback rides— Benjamin Spock
2 : carried or transported piggyback: such as
a : of or relating to the hauling of truck trailers on railroad flatcars
b : being or relating to something carried into space as an extra load by a vehicle (such as a spacecraft)


variants: or less commonly pickaback
piggybacked also pickabacked; piggybacking also pickabacking; piggybacks also pickabacks

Definition of piggyback (Entry 4 of 4)

transitive verb

1 : to carry up on the shoulders and back
2 : to haul (something, such as a truck trailer) by railroad car
3 : to set up or cause to function in conjunction with something larger, more important, or already in existence or operation

intransitive verb

: to function or be carried on or as if on the back of another

Did you know?


Have you ever wondered where the porcine part of piggyback comes from? Well, it's not from the pigs themselves. The adverb piggyback likely began as "a pick pack." Another early form of the word is pickback, evidence of which can be found in the still-extant variant pickaback. The adverb piggyback dates to the mid-16th century, and the noun-referring to an act of carrying piggyback-was in use by the end of that same century. The adjective piggyback, as in "piggyback ride," didn't enter the language until the 18th century, and the now-common verb piggyback didn't piggyback on the others until the late 19th century.

Examples of piggyback in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun James gave Aaron a piggyback ride out of Mexico, and the two boarded the van and headed back to the States together. Haley Kluge, Variety, 5 Oct. 2021 Hannah Atkinson, who ran and helped organize the race, won the piggyback division. Beth Bragg, Anchorage Daily News, 23 Sep. 2021 In two of the sweet snaps, Zaya, 14, gives Kaavia a piggyback ride on the Parc du Champ de Mars as the sisters cheese for the camera. Ashley Boucher, PEOPLE.com, 30 Aug. 2021 The pair were all smiles as Zaya gave her little sis a piggyback ride in front of the Eiffel Tower in Pairs. Quinci Legardye, Harper's BAZAAR, 28 Aug. 2021 Since then the two have become inseparable, with Mango (who sleeps in his cage at night) riding piggyback on Bella around the house and on walks and even sharing her food at mealtimes. Wendy Grossman Kantor, PEOPLE.com, 30 July 2021 So instead of receiving those piggyback rides to eat pancakes, their wives end up as de facto chauffeurs, career counselors, IT experts, research librarians, therapists, and personal cheerleaders. Elizabeth Greenwood, The Atlantic, 27 July 2021 Records show the district used an obscure contract in Minnesota for a piggyback bid and split a nearly $1 million contract into two just under $500,000. Scott Travis, sun-sentinel.com, 16 July 2021 Emma, meanwhile, loved art, her dad's piggyback rides, and cuddling with her mom, said Rodriguez. Rachel Desantis, PEOPLE.com, 7 July 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective He is scheduled to start, followed by lefty Tyler Alexander out of the bullpen in a piggyback role. Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press, 28 Aug. 2021 Zimmermann could be used in a piggyback role following a starter with a limited pitch count, much like how left-hander Daniel Norris enters after right-hander Michael Fulmer is done, though Gardenhire didn't commit to it Saturday. Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press, 13 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb The changeover to 5G also will affect services that piggyback on wireless signals, such as SOS buttons in vehicles and home-security systems. Los Angeles Times, 5 Nov. 2021 Unfortunately, no matter how long your IRS dispute goes on, California can always piggyback and collect its share. Robert W. Wood, Forbes, 4 Oct. 2021 Septic-tank vacuums sucked up spongy cakes of toxic algae until the South Florida Water Management District was able to piggyback on a state contract for algae removal services performed by a dredging company. Kimberly Miller, orlandosentinel.com, 24 Oct. 2021 Larger carriers can piggyback on wireless networks installed by private companies. Bart Van Aardenne, Forbes, 6 Oct. 2021 Two innings later, Tony Gonsolin, the Dodgers’ No. 5 starter, took the mound to piggyback Kershaw and served up TJ Friedl’s first career hit — a home run over Betts’ head in right field. Los Angeles Times, 19 Sep. 2021 Another possibility to get more sand is to piggyback onto the annual Corps of Engineers contract, which Oceanside has done several times in years past. Phil Diehl, San Diego Union-Tribune, 11 July 2021 The idea is to piggyback on field research without incurring additional expense, and to sample parts of the state not accessible via Alaska’s limited road network. Gemma Tarlach, Wired, 3 July 2021 At least one ransomware group appeared to try to piggyback off of Hafnium's campaign soon after it was exposed. Andy Greenberg, Wired, 19 July 2021

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'piggyback.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of piggyback


1565, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1592, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1784, in the meaning defined at sense 1


1895, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for piggyback


alteration of earlier a pick pack, of unknown origin

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The first known use of piggyback was in 1565

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Dictionary Entries Near piggyback



piggyback plant

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Cite this Entry

“Piggyback.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/piggyback. Accessed 8 Dec. 2021.

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More Definitions for piggyback



English Language Learners Definition of piggyback (Entry 2 of 2)

: the act of carrying someone on your back or shoulders



English Language Learners Definition of piggyback (Entry 4 of 2)

: to be carried by or connected to something else or to cause (something) to be carried by or connected to something else


adverb or adjective
pig·​gy·​back | \ ˈpi-gē-ˌbak How to pronounce piggyback (audio) \

Kids Definition of piggyback

: on the back or shoulders The child wanted a piggyback ride.

More from Merriam-Webster on piggyback

Nglish: Translation of piggyback for Spanish Speakers


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