\ 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

Synonyms for switch

Synonyms: Noun

flogger, lash, scourge, whip

Synonyms: Verb

change, commute, exchange, shift, substitute, swap, trade

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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

Wi-Fi 6 technology is ideal for homes with lots of devices, ranging from smart home gadgets like switches and dimmers to media-streaming devices that pull down high-definition video from the internet. Michael Brown, PCWorld, "Netgear takes its Orbi mesh Wi-Fi system to the next level with Wi-Fi 6," 7 Jan. 2019 And a gradual switch away from manual-labor jobs means that many more people have the option of working late in life. WSJ, "Five Top Ideas About Aging from The Experts in 2018," 4 Jan. 2019 While a quick wardrobe switch up is always a welcome idea, there’s nothing quite as transformative—or as instantly satisfying—as a new haircut. Jenna Rennert, Vogue, "New Year, New Hair! 6 Short Haircut Ideas for 2019," 2 Jan. 2019 There are sometimes debates in the Ars team Slack about Apple's likely switch to making its own CPUs for Macs. Ron Amadeo, Ars Technica, "Our favorite (and least favorite) tech of 2018," 26 Dec. 2018 Walls are painted or wallpapered, plumbing and electrical fixtures like faucets and light switch covers are installed, and register covers are put in place. Brett Martin, House Beautiful, "How Long It Takes To Renovate Every Single Room In Your House," 26 Dec. 2018 And if romaine was anywhere on your Thanksgiving menu, make an emergency switch to spinach. Macaela Mackenzie, Glamour, "Do Not Eat Any Romaine Lettuce: Health Officials Have Issued a Massive Recall," 20 Nov. 2018 Ramadan Sobhi has been brought in from Stoke whilst Ben Hamer has arrived from Leicester City and Terence Kongolo has completed a permanent switch to Huddersfield from Monaco for a club record fee. SI.com, "David Wagner Tells Huddersfield Fans to Expect More Summer Signings as Reinforcements Arrive," 13 July 2018 The pilot, within arm’s reach, is pulling levers and flicking switches placidly despite the occasional quick dip that brings my stomach into my throat. Virginia Van Zanten, Vogue, "Why Botswana Should Top Your Travel List in 2019," 27 Dec. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

That’s a time to shop for new plans or switch coverage. Ricardo Alonso-zaldivar, The Seattle Times, "Medicare upgrades its website ahead of sign-up season," 2 Oct. 2018 The only remaining way for Crowley to do the right thing is to switch his residency to Virginia, where his family resides and his children already go to school. David Freedlander, Daily Intelligencer, "Ocasio-Cortez’s Upset Over Crowley Seemed to End Amicably. Now Suddenly, They’re Feuding.," 12 July 2018 Bosnian midfielder Haris Medunjanin had taken advantage of a defensive misplay by Diego Campos -who started at right mid but was switched to right back due to an early injury to Kevin Ellis- to open the scoring at Toyota Park. Juan Pimiento, chicagotribune.com, "Accam's late goal earns Philadelphia a win over the Chicago Fire," 11 July 2018 More than 150 workers could be laid off next month in the wake of Atrium Health switching anesthesiology vendors, according to the provider that no longer holds the contract. Deon Roberts, charlotteobserver, "The extent of anesthesiology layoffs at Atrium hospitals is detailed for first time," 3 July 2018 The Italian midfielder emerged through the Juventus youth system playing as a forward, modelling himself after his childhood hero Alessandro Del Piero, but his career progression vastly accelerated when he was switched to a deeper midfield role. SI.com, "Juventus Legend Claudio Marchisio Shoots Down Exit Rumours and is Hopeful of Staying With the Club," 27 June 2018 His mother, Maribel Ayala Lugo, who would take kitchen gigs here and there, estimates that the family moved 10 or 11 times during her son’s upbringing, switching schools frequently. Cassie Owens, Philly.com, "Throwing down: How this potter from Kensington found fine art success," 26 June 2018 Residents who had cast ballots at Nathan Hale were switched to a district that voted at Highland Park School that now serves about 5,000 voters. Jesse Leavenworth, Courant Community, "Manchester Leaders Favor Polling Place Revival After Complaints," 22 June 2018 If the spotting bothers you, ask your ob/gyn about switching to a higher dose pill. 3. Amy Marturana, SELF, "12 Causes of Spotting and Breakthrough Bleeding," 28 Dec. 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

14 Jan 2019

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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More from Merriam-Webster on switch

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with switch

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for switch

Spanish Central: Translation of switch

Nglish: Translation of switch for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of switch for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about switch

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 settle judicially or to act as judge

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