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 Noroviruses contaminating food piggyback on this natural bodily response to invade cells in the small intestine, replicate and cause disease. Houston Chronicle, "Betrayed by bile: bile acids help norovirus sneak into cells," 3 Jan. 2020 That would put Roark as the Game 2 starter and Fiers, Brett Anderson (with a piggyback starter) or Homer Bailey the candidates for Game 3. Susan Slusser, SFChronicle.com, "With Fiers starting Friday, here’s how the A’s playoff rotation could look," 18 Sep. 2019 Some tried to tip-toe around the edge, some asked for piggybacks, while others didn't think twice and waded straight through. CNN, "Rugby World Cup: The best off-field moments so far," 16 Oct. 2019 Not yet named, the cute, fresh-faced addition to the zoo will get around during their first three months by using mom for piggyback rides. Benjamin Vanhoose, PEOPLE.com, "Hold on Tight! Newquay Zoo's New Baby Capuchin Monkey Loves Piggyback Rides from Mom," 7 Nov. 2019 The city will need to either piggyback onto a pre-exisiting bid or contract or put out a request for proposal. Catalina Righter, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, "Westminster police looking at purchase of cameras for key areas downtown," 22 Oct. 2019 In another video, Penelope Disick, the daughter of Kourtney Kardashian and Scott Disick, gives little Chicago a piggyback ride. Chelsey Sanchez, Harper's BAZAAR, "North, Saint, and Chicago Had the Best Time at Kim Kardashian West’s 39th Birthday Bash," 22 Oct. 2019 The collection is so deep that Gray Fenter, who is coming off Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery but received a $1 million signing bonus in 2015, is pitching as a piggyback starter out of the bullpen. Jon Meoli, baltimoresun.com, "Dominant Delmarva rotation could mark the next wave of promising pitching for Orioles," 5 May 2018 The pitcher who debuted Wednesday at Bowie in a piggyback role was far better than the versions that preceded it in past years at High-A Frederick. Jon Meoli, baltimoresun.com, "Orioles’ 2017 top pick Cody Sedlock shining at Double-A Bowie: ‘I’m looking forward to taking it to the next level’," 23 July 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb In light of the book by Stanford professor and Internet Archive artist-in-residence Jenny Odell, that means avoiding doing things simply to be performative, to piggyback off others, fuel the echo chamber, or log face time at work. Rachel King, Fortune, "The 10 Best Business Books of 2019," 1 Dec. 2019 The majority are appealing their misdemeanor charges or piggybacking off the work of Kraft’s legal team, expecting to have their records cleared entirely. BostonGlobe.com, "Martin County Sheriff William D. Snyder portrayed most of the women peddling prostitution at day spas as victims, while calling the men who hired them for sex “monsters.”," 6 Oct. 2019 If Goodrum's season is indeed done, the question becomes: Was his performance — piggybacking off an impressive rookie season — good enough to solidify a spot in next year’s starting lineup? Anthony Fenech, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers' Niko Goodrum has adductor strain, leaving him in tough situation," 27 Mar. 2019 Domingo Germán, an 18-game winner this year, replaced Sabathia in another trial run of New York’s plan to piggyback starters in the postseason. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Ottavino botches throw, Yankees miss chance to clinch," 18 Sep. 2019 No small number of cultural artifacts piggybacked onto Apollo 11. Matthew Guerrieri, BostonGlobe.com, "A journey to the moon, by a master of the theremin," 3 July 2019 The Chandra X-Ray Observatory, the most powerful X-ray telescope ever built, was piggybacked to the space shuttle Columbia and launched into space in 1999. Anna Diamond, Smithsonian, "Chandra Telescope Observes Two Decades of Turning Theory Into Reality," 26 Nov. 2019 As SI’s Tom Verducci reported on Monday, New York plans on piggybacking its starters throughout October, with the exception of James Paxton (who has a 1.48 ERA in his last five starts). Jon Tayler, SI.com, "After Overcoming Injuries All Season, Can the Yankees Win Their 28th World Series?," 19 Sep. 2019 FanDuel, which has also become a leading sports wagering company in some states where that practice is legal, will be piggybacking on Suffolk Downs’ existing online business. BostonGlobe.com, "It’s now pursuing plans to resume racing in Great Barrington, which is among several horse racing-related proposals that need the approval of the state Legislature.," 6 Dec. 2019

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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Time Traveler for piggyback

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The first known use of piggyback was in 1565

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Cite this Entry

“Piggyback.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/piggyback. Accessed 19 January 2020.

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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

Comments on piggyback

What made you want to look up piggyback? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


to insert between existing elements

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