switch·​back | \ ˈswich-ˌbak How to pronounce switchback (audio) \

Definition of switchback

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a zigzag road, trail, or section of railroad tracks for climbing a steep hill


switchbacked; switchbacking; switchbacks

Definition of switchback (Entry 2 of 2)

intransitive verb

: to follow a zigzag course especially for ascent or descent a trail that switchbacks

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Other Words from switchback


switchback adjective

Examples of switchback in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun The last glimpse The hunt for black cardamom: Travelers and farmers have to brave snakes, switchbacks, and a bumpy mountain path in a Vietnamese national park to find a forest with a key ingredient for many Vietnamese dishes. National Geographic, "Where is the healthiest seat on an airplane?," 28 Jan. 2020 The one-way trail alternates between uphill switchbacks and downhill stretches with views of the surrounding neighborhoods. Arizona Republic, azcentral, "100 free things to do in metro Phoenix," 17 Aug. 2019 The path turns into a series of ascending switchbacks. Andrea Frazzetta, National Geographic, "What it’s like to live in the shadow of an active volcano," 29 Dec. 2019 But the switchback narrative doesn’t serve her, or the production, well: scenes that should have a real emotional punch (Amy’s burning of Jo’s novel, Beth’s death) dissipate in the fragmented structure. The Economist, "Rough and wild Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of “Little Women” lacks heart," 30 Dec. 2019 The switchback trail is one of several projects along the popular trail, which also include the connection between the two sections and replacement of the decking on some bridges. Erika Butler, baltimoresun.com, "Ma & Pa Trail switchback connection nearly finished, work continues on link between two sections," 1 Nov. 2019 The route winds through the famed Walter’s Wiggles, a series of 20 increasingly steep switchbacks, and on to the monolith’s spine, commonly known as the hogs back. Jay Jones, Los Angeles Times, "How did Zion National Park become more popular than Yosemite or Yellowstone?," 27 Sep. 2019 The trail then descends the slope, with a few turns and a switchback, to Round Valley and the junction with Miwok Trail/Road. Tom Stienstra, SFChronicle.com, "East of Mt. Diablo is hidden gem Round Valley," 25 Sep. 2019 Where the trail crosses Summit Road, the route begins a continual climb on edge-hugging switchbacks that dodge in and out of stony clefts and tight bends. Mare Czinar, azcentral, "Get big views of downtown Phoenix on this less-used South Mountain hiking trail," 13 Nov. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Flanagan cannot quite make Ziggy’s magnetism or sinister influence plausible, but the novel, with its switchbacking recollections and cyclical dialogue, its penetrating scenes of birth and, eventually, death, is enigmatic and mesmerizing. Joan Acocella, The New Yorker, "Briefly Noted," 19 May 2018 From the main entrance near Broad and Noble Streets, the trail switchbacks past urban glades, clusters of benches, reimagined steel catenaries, and a public art sculpture that resembles (much too literally) a telephone pole. Inga Saffron, Philly.com, "The first piece of the Reading Viaduct rail park opens in June. Then what?," 19 Apr. 2018 Jerome is laid out vertically, with Arizona 89A switchbacking through it. Scott Craven, USA TODAY, "Arizona road trip: Five must-see small towns," 13 Oct. 2017 Find two easily accessible ones at the Upper Picnic Area, or drive down to the canoe launch area for a challenging hike via switchbacks up Mt. Pisgah. Chelsey Lewis, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "13 places to see fall colors from up high in Wisconsin," 28 Sep. 2017

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


1863, in the meaning defined above


1903, in the meaning defined above

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Time Traveler for switchback

Time Traveler

The first known use of switchback was in 1863

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Statistics for switchback

Last Updated

13 Feb 2020

Cite this Entry

“Switchback.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/switchback. Accessed 21 Feb. 2020.

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More Definitions for switchback


How to pronounce switchback (audio)

English Language Learners Definition of switchback

: a road, trail, or section of railroad tracks that has many sharp turns for climbing a steep hill

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Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with switchback

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