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 The piggyback rides the child spoke of occurred between mid-November 2019 and Feb. 4, 2020, according to charging documents. Mary Grace Keller, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, "Pennsylvania man accused of sexually abusing 8-year-old girl in Woodbine, police say," 5 Oct. 2020 Can, let Gathering Place piggyback on that service on Aug. 17. Kathy Flanigan, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "'It's just easier if we work together.' Breweries find a way to help each other during pandemic," 26 Aug. 2020 Don’t be surprised if the Reds set up a piggyback with Wade Miley and Tyler Mahle. Bobby Nightengale, The Enquirer, "Nightengale: 20 thoughts on the Cincinnati Reds' first 20 games of the season," 18 Aug. 2020 Private ISPs there piggyback on public infrastructure, driving down the cost to consumers while offering more variety. Gregory Thomas, San Francisco Chronicle, "Can San Francisco realize the dream of public internet?," 9 Aug. 2020 Gardenhire is planning to use Norris as a piggyback reliever Monday following right-handed starter Michael Fulmer's three-inning limit. Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press, "Detroit Tigers' Tyler Alexander joins starting rotation, forces Daniel Norris to bullpen," 7 Aug. 2020 If certification piggybacks on such tests, the U.S. could create a substantial and vital new specialized labor force of the certified recovered in the short term. Aaron Edlin, STAT, "The ‘certified recovered’ from Covid-19 could lead the economic recovery," 6 Apr. 2020 The first photo portrayed Kate giving Princess Charlotte a piggyback ride while William carried Prince George on his back. Julyssa Lopez, Glamour, "Kate Middleton Shares New Photos With George and Charlotte to Celebrate Mother's Day in the U.K.," 22 Mar. 2020 This comes after efforts to either piggyback with another city’s contract or create a local consortium with neighboring municipalities were not successful. Beth Mlady, cleveland, "Berea will seek bids for new trash hauling contract," 3 Feb. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Adjective 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, "Detroit Tigers' Daz Cameron's first MLB hit: Like father, like son, 25 years later," 13 Sep. 2020 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Government agencies can step in and piggyback off what private practice attorneys uncover during the discovery process. Washington Post, "When regulators fail to rein in Big Tech, some turn to antitrust litigation," 21 Aug. 2020 The concerts will piggyback on what he's learned about performing remotely. Mark Kennedy, Star Tribune, "Josh Groban won't let virus stop his live music and album," 17 Aug. 2020 Gardenhire said Alexander will piggyback right-hander Michael Fulmer's Sunday start against the Indians, leaving voids Monday and Tuesday against the Chicago White Sox. Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press, "Any chance for Casey Mize with Tigers' Ivan Nova injured? Here's what Ron Gardenhire said," 16 Aug. 2020 Nine of the ten largest mainland Chinese banks piggyback off it, using USD CHATS accounts with HSBC. The Economist, "Hong Kong’s uncertain future Can Hong Kong remain a global financial centre?," 4 June 2020 Ubisoft’s competitors are constantly looking for ways to piggyback on R6S’s popularity and to capture the attention, and money, of R6S players. Edvard Pettersson, Bloomberg.com, "Ubisoft Sues Apple, Google Over Alibaba’s Rainbow Six “Ripoff”," 15 May 2020 The PastryNow team developed its app to piggyback on trends with ghost kitchens and delivery models, but with a spin. Anne Nickoloff, cleveland, "Delivery-based dining apps change up Northeast Ohio food scene," 27 Dec. 2019 Sacha hopes to break the seasonal flu cycle and prevent pandemics by piggybacking core influenza genes on the genes of cytomegalovirus. oregonlive, "OHSU doc dreams of life-time immunity with one flu shot," 21 Sep. 2019 Separately, to take on TikTok’s skyrocketing popularity, Facebook could piggyback on Jio’s 388 million-strong subscribers to finally debut its own short-form viral video app, Lasso, in India, Bose suggested. Ananya Bhattacharya, Quartz India, "The Reliance Jio deal could give Facebook a much-needed image makeover in India," 23 Apr. 2020

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

Time Traveler

The first known use of piggyback was in 1565

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Cite this Entry

“Piggyback.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/piggyback. Accessed 25 Oct. 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


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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