\ˈswich \

Definition of switch 

(Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a slender flexible whip, rod, or twig a riding switch

2 : an act of switching: such as

a : a blow with a switch

b : a shift from one to another

c : a change from the usual that outfit is a switch

3 : a tuft of long hairs at the end of the tail of an animal (such as a cow) — see cow illustration

4 : a device made usually of two movable rails and necessary connections and designed to turn a locomotive or train from one track to another

5 : a device for making, breaking, or changing the connections in an electrical circuit

6 : a heavy strand of hair used in addition to a person's own hair for some coiffures


switched; switching; switches

Definition of switch (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to strike or beat with or as if with a switch

2 : whisk, lash a cat switching its tail

3a(1) : to turn from one railroad track to another : shunt

(2) : to move (cars) to different positions on the same track within terminal areas

b : to make a shift in or exchange of switch seats

4a : to shift to another electrical circuit by means of a switch

b(1) : to operate an electrical switch so as to turn (a device) on or off usually used with on or off

(2) : to change to or from an active state usually used with on or off switched on the gene

intransitive verb

1 : to lash from side to side

2 : to make a shift or exchange

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Other Words from switch


switchable \ ˈswi-​chə-​bəl \ adjective
switcher noun

Examples of switch in a Sentence


She flicked a switch and turned the lamp on. He threw the switch to stop the machine.


I switched to a new doctor. He kept switching back and forth between topics. She switched back to her original insurance company. We switched over to a different telephone service. Why did you switch jobs?
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Recent Examples on the Web: Noun

When the discussion moved to how much the switch would cost him, Kovaci disappeared into his house to retrieve his wife. Erica L. Green, BostonGlobe.com, "Teachers unions hustle to ensure their survival after Janus decision," 14 July 2018 The most surprising change on the schedule, since both of the above moves were already announced, was the switch from four FedEx Cup playoff events to three. Daniel Rapaport, SI.com, "FORE Questions: Breaking Down the New PGA Tour Schedule," 12 July 2018 The switch in accounting methods raised the value of the stake in the affiliated biopharmaceutical company to 4.9 trillion South Korean won (about $4.3 billion) from 290 billion won. Timothy W. Martin, WSJ, "South Korea Regulator Says Samsung BioLogics Violated Accounting Rules," 12 July 2018 The switch puts a whimper of a finale in a tug-of-war that dates back to 1966. Clifton Leaf, Fortune, "Brainstorm Health: Ties in Biology, Trump-Pfizer Takeaways, Obamacare Navigator Cuts," 11 July 2018 The name switch came before the release of 2005’s Southland Tales, when his star outside the wrestling ring was on the rise. Esme Douglas, EW.com, "Dwayne Johnson reveals why he stopped going by The Rock for a short time," 11 July 2018 Already, changeable signs announcing the switch have been placed along Downer, and large barrels are ready to be put in place. Steve Lord, Aurora Beacon-News, "Aurora set to make Downer Place a two-way street through East Side," 10 July 2018 In the final year before all teams make the switch to playing spring ball, the summer baseball playoffs begin for the last time with the regional semifinal round on Tuesday. Curt Hogg, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "Here are the 5 things to watch for as the final WIAA summer baseball playoffs begin this week," 9 July 2018 Trading for Butler would start with outbidding other teams with an attractive enough package for Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau and general manager Scott Layden to consider pulling off the switch. Manny Navarro, miamiherald, "Could Butler be next disgruntled star Heat targets? Plus, Ellington watch continues," 4 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

Charter school advocates say parents have voted with their feet, switching their students from traditional schools to charters. Craig Harris, azcentral, "The charter-vs.-district school funding debate: Who gets more money?," 12 July 2018 Fares are typically $25 to $35 higher for switching domestic flights from economy to Comfort Plus, Hauenstein said. Bart Jansen, USA TODAY, "Delta expanding 'Premium Select' to all widebody European flights by 2021," 12 July 2018 Passenger travel switched in 1942 from Stinson, our city’s first commercial airport, to the new San Antonio Municipal Airport north of the city, opened after part of Stinson was transferred to the federal government for wartime use. Paula Allen, San Antonio Express-News, "Experts weigh in on reader's midcentury San Antonio airport photo," 7 July 2018 Toyota will continue to run Camrys in the Sprint Cup series in 2019 when Ford switches to Mustangs to go up against the Chevrolet Camaro introduced this season. Fox News, "Toyota Supra NASCAR Xfinity Series car confirmed for 2019," 7 July 2018 The Sisemores have about 40 restored RVs and switch them out from time to time to display from 20 to 25. John Goodspeed, San Antonio Express-News, "RV museum chronicles Americans’ love of camping," 12 July 2018 The two then switched gears to talk about Quinto's upcoming project, In Search Of, a doc series that begins July 20 on the History channel. Ryan Parker, The Hollywood Reporter, "Zachary Quinto Teases George Stephanopoulos for 'Star Wars' Spock Mix-Up," 12 July 2018 The plaintiffs believe the seed was switched out for an inferior seed at a facility in Mississippi, according to the paper. Scott Berson, charlotteobserver, "Black farmers were sold ‘weaponized’ seed, and racism may be to blame, lawsuit says," 11 July 2018 To stop the stream, go to Settings > Photos > Upload to My Photo Stream, and switch it off. Josie Colt, WIRED, "How To Free Up Space on Your iPhone," 6 July 2018

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'switch.' 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 switch


1592, in the meaning defined at sense 1


circa 1611, in the meaning defined at transitive sense 1

History and Etymology for switch


perhaps from Middle Dutch swijch twig

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Statistics for switch

Last Updated

4 Nov 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for switch

The first known use of switch was in 1592

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More Definitions for switch



English Language Learners Definition of switch

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a small device that starts or stops the flow of electricity to something (such as a lamp or a machine) when it is pressed or moved up and down

: a sudden change from one thing to another

: a device for moving the rails of a track so that a train may be turned from one track to another



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

: to make a change from one thing to another : to start doing or using something that is different

: to make a change from one thing to another by turning or pushing a button or moving a switch, lever, etc.

: to change or replace (something) with another thing


\ˈswich \

Kids Definition of switch

 (Entry 1 of 2)

1 : a device for making, breaking, or changing the connections in an electrical circuit

2 : a change from one thing to another a switch in plans

3 : a narrow flexible whip, rod, or twig

4 : an act of switching

5 : a device for adjusting the rails of a track so that a train or streetcar may be turned from one track to another


switched; switching

Kids Definition of switch (Entry 2 of 2)

1 : to turn, shift, or change by operating a device that makes, breaks, or changes the connections in an electrical circuit Remember to switch off the light.

2 : to move quickly from side to side The cow was switching its tail.

3 : to make a shift or change He switched to a new barber.

4 : to strike with or as if with a whip, rod, or twig

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Comments on switch

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


to clear from alleged fault or guilt

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