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

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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

From the era of powerhouse, long-haired blondes that tore up the airwaves, one of the most memorable names is Sebastian Bach, and not only because the singer’s nom de guerre piggybacks on a classical titan. Trevor Fraser, orlandosentinel.com, "Sebastian Bach brings Skid Row to Orlando," 4 June 2019 And don't worry: George and Charlotte also got in on the piggyback ride action. Kayleigh Roberts, Marie Claire, "Prince William and Kate Middleton Take George and Charlotte for a Day Out with the Tindalls," 14 Apr. 2019 In a legal declaration, a deputy city attorney noted that she was being carried piggyback on the way to a dance club just before midnight. Emily Alpert Reyes, latimes.com, "L.A. to pay up to $3 million to settle suit from woman injured in fall on sidewalk," 18 Apr. 2018 From private lenders, a piggyback loan is another common way to lower the cost of a down payment. Kevin Mcallister, WSJ, "How to Make Home Ownership a Reality," 13 Jan. 2019 There are subversive touches (gilded erogenous zones) and a playful sense of sisterhood (piggyback rides as literal women-supporting-women). Laura Regensdorf, Vogue, "Katie Stout’s “Girl Lamps” Come to Life in a New Collaboration with the Fashion Label Phelan," 7 Dec. 2018 Huygens was a European lander that rode piggyback with Cassini and eventually touched down on the surface of Titan, Saturn's largest moon, in January 2005. Mike Wall, Space.com, "Saturn's Gorgeous Rings and 3 Moons Shine in Stunning Cassini Photo," 11 May 2018 FreeSync, meanwhile, piggybacks atop the VESA Adaptive-Sync standard, and AMD doesn’t hit monitor makers with royalties or licensing costs to use it. Brad Chacos, PCWorld, "This clever trick gets AMD FreeSync running on an Nvidia GeForce graphics card," 27 Aug. 2018 Morstad shared a photo of herself riding piggyback on Wicks on Instagram Thursday. Fox News, "Chuck Wicks is dating Jason Aldean's sister Kasi," 10 Aug. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

The iPad will also get its own operating system instead of piggybacking on the iPhone software as Apple tries to cater to consumers who would like the tablet to be able to do more of the things a laptop computer can do. Michael Liedtke, Anchorage Daily News, "Say hello to ‘dark mode’ on iPhones and goodbye to iTunes," 4 June 2019 That idea piggybacks on standard theories of galaxy formation, in which gas pours into a dark-matter halo to build a galaxy. Quanta Magazine, "Strange Dark Galaxy Puzzles Astrophysicists," 27 Sep. 2016 The devices can be found in biology and chemistry labs, hooked up to astronomical telescopes, and piggybacking on Mars landers. Adam Hadhazy, Popular Mechanics, "Turn Your Laptop Into a Spectrometer," 27 Dec. 2012 Although Camp Pendleton is a sprawling Marine Corps base, its commands often piggyback on contracts negotiated by Navy officials. Carl Prine, sandiegouniontribune.com, "Feds settle case with I.T. contractor over wages at Camp Pendleton and elsewhere," 2 Apr. 2018 On the upside, this is the sort of observation that can piggyback on radio telescope sky surveys and slowly build up data from multiple sources and multiple observations. Chris Lee, Ars Technica, "Pulsars could convert dark matter into something we could see," 20 Dec. 2018 That makes the area too wealthy to qualify for tax breaks on its own, but the tax law allows such areas to piggyback on nearby ones that do qualify. Bernard Condon, The Seattle Times, "Amazon’s NYC home in ‘opportunity zone’ for Trump tax break," 13 Nov. 2018 To piggyback the lobster tails: Lengthwise slice through the center upper shell of the lobster to expose the tail meat, but leave the tail fan and under-shell in tact. Christina Pérez, Vogue, "3 Fancy But Easy BBQ Recipes to Grill Before Summer Is Over," 30 Aug. 2018 Instead of piggybacking on larger launch vehicles, these small sats will now have rides built for them that are available on demand. Joe Pappalardo, Popular Mechanics, "The Space Launch Legend Who's Backing a Startup," 8 Nov. 2018

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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More Definitions for piggyback



English Language Learners Definition of piggyback

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: the act of carrying someone on your back or shoulders



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

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

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More from Merriam-Webster on piggyback

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with piggyback

Spanish Central: Translation of piggyback

Nglish: Translation of piggyback for Spanish Speakers

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