\ 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

Some of its current solar capacity also has been siphoned off by high-profile efforts such as helping Puerto Rico switch to solar power in the wake of last year's hurricane. Marco Della Cava, USA TODAY, "Burning for Tesla Powerwall? Get ready to wait as Musk's solar vision takes a backseat to Model 3," 13 July 2018 Zappacosta could go the other way though as the Daily Star reports that the Italian is set for a £20m switch to the Stadio San Paolo. SI.com, "Davide Zappacosta Set for Serie A Return as Chelsea Plan Summer Overhaul Under New Boss," 13 July 2018 This also means there could potentially still be issues with Apple’s ultra-thin, butterfly-switch keyboards, even on the new machines. Lauren Goode, WIRED, "Apple's MacBook Pros Get Faster Chips, New Keyboards (Kinda)," 12 July 2018 Adrian Peterson is employed because there were no photographs of him in the act of beating children with switches. Bob Ford, Philly.com, "What will the NFL do about Shady McCoy? | Bob Ford," 12 July 2018 The aquatic facility runs drills continually, and to keep fresh eyes, the lifeguards switch zones every 20 minutes, said Danielle Friedl, swim school manager. Yadira Sanchez Olson, Lake County News-Sun, "Annual lifeguard competition in Gurnee tests of strength, speed and rescue skills," 12 July 2018 Her five-minute routine comes with some unusual names, incorporating burpees, mountain climbers, fast feet/sprint, tuck jumps, pushups and side plank switches. Mike Candelaria, OrlandoSentinel.com, "Got 5 minutes? You have time to exercise," 11 July 2018 Joan Didion was photographed gray for her famous 2015 Celine campaign, but switches between silver and brown bobs in the recent Netflix documentary The Center Will Not Hold. Jessica Berger Gross, Longreads, "Gone Gray," 10 July 2018 Meadows said Tuesday that CSX has made several safety changes since the crash, including requiring employees that change track switches to verbally confirm changes with other crewmembers. Fox News, "Investigators grill train company about deadly crash in SC," 10 July 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

President Trump threw the annual NATO summit into crisis Thursday — forcing an emergency session and suggesting the United States could leave the nearly 70-year-old alliance — before switching positions and claiming victory. Eli Stokols, latimes.com, "Trump throws NATO summit into crisis mode with demands, before switching and claiming victory," 12 July 2018 The companies also will be required to notify the commission in advance of switching off a line — again, if feasible — and tell the commission once service has been restored. David R. Baker, SFChronicle.com, "To prevent fires, California sets new rules for shutting off power lines," 12 July 2018 The song begins with a bustling horn section and soft chimes before switching to a smooth beat and sparse piano. Hannah Steinkopf-frank, RedEye Chicago, "Sen Morimoto gets moody with his saxophone," 11 July 2018 It’s called code switching, the practice of switching between languages or in some cases, dialects. refinery29.com, "Sorry To Bother You," 10 July 2018 China does have some success stories, including Huawei Technologies Ltd., the biggest global seller of switching gear for phone companies and the No. 3 smartphone brand. Joe Mcdonald, The Christian Science Monitor, "US tariffs could spur tech development in China," 5 July 2018 China typically imports from Brazil at this time of year before switching to the U.S., spurring concerns about a deficit in the fourth quarter. Bloomberg, Time, "This American Cargo Ship Is Racing to China to Beat a Huge New Tariff on the Soybeans it's Carrying," 5 July 2018 On Tuesday, thousands of Twitter users were on the edge of their seats as one passenger detailed a blossoming love story sparked by switching seats on an airplane. Andrew Joseph, For The Win, "Ex-USMNT player Stu Holden provides incredible twist to Twitter's best love story," 4 July 2018 In a study published in 2016, doctors at the University of Bristol showed that, just by switching the default settings on the machine, patients received safer ventilation. The Economist, "Hospitals are learning from industry how to cut medical errors," 28 June 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

9 Sep 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).


alleviating pain or harshness

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