pig·​gy·​back | \ ˈpi-gē-ˌbak \
variants: or less commonly \ ˈpi-​gē-​ , 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

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 Fans at the stadium went crazy, and the game's hero gave Lionel Messi a piggyback ride around the field to celebrate. Charlotte Carroll, SI.com, "Watch: Argentina Fans in Buenos Aires Lose Their Minds After Marcos Rojo's Goal," 26 June 2018 The first featured Ariana receiving a piggyback ride from Pete. Lauren Rearick, Teen Vogue, "Pete Davidson Wishes Happy Birthday to Ariana Grande on Instagram," 26 June 2018 After, O’Rourke ascended the stage with his daughter, Molly, riding piggyback. Michael Hoinski, GQ, "Beto in the Outfield," 19 Apr. 2018 The second touchdown was a 60-yard run by quarterback Feleipe Franks, who celebrated by punting the ball into the stands and then jumping onto the back of defensive back Chauncey Gardner-Johnson and getting a piggyback ride across the end zone. Mike Bianchi, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Dan Mullen turns Gators spring game into fun-filled spring fling," 15 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

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 Of course, other brands were bound to piggyback on Starbucks’s success. Elise Taylor, Vogue, "Can Anything Stop Pumpkin Spice?," 31 Aug. 2018 In an interesting twist, the Rhode Island officials essentially piggybacked on the bidding work in Massachusetts, enabling the state to add another wind farm to the region’s mix. Jon Chesto, BostonGlobe.com, "Massachusetts wind power takes a big step forward," 23 May 2018 Another result is that the mitigation bankers would build a 3-mile truck road, piggybacking on an existing dirt lane crossing the conservation area. Kevin Spear, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Florida plan for Lake County sand mine provokes residents' ire," 22 June 2018 The lab’s many collaborators have helped them at little to no cost or allowed them to piggyback onto other trips, all in the name of research. Rebecca Robbins, STAT, "A daredevil researcher’s latest quest: to restore sight lost to glaucoma using virtual reality," 2 July 2018 As People reported, other Twitter users have piggybacked off of Matlow's tweet with variations of their own. Emily Wang, Teen Vogue, "Ivanka Trump's Gown Draws Comparisons to Blankets Used by Detained Immigrant Children," 20 June 2018 So this reads like Stone and Caputo are trying to piggyback on Trumpworld’s larger effort to spin the Russia probe as an FBI / deep state setup, in hopes of excusing a meeting that looks very bad for them. Andrew Prokop, Vox, "Roger Stone suddenly admits to meeting with a Russian national to seek dirt on Hillary Clinton," 17 June 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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Time Traveler for piggyback

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 \

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 gather or build up little by little

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