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 three state parks officers met with the witnesses about 4.2 miles from the top, and continued up the steep trail’s many switchbacks, looking for the gunman, Pacioni said. Michael Cabanatuan, SFChronicle.com, "Suspect in I-680 fatal shooting is shot to death in Big Sur after firing at hikers, police say," 27 June 2019 From the get-go, bikers will ascend gnarly switchbacks and rocky terrain with some sections so rugged that skilled riders will still be forced to walk. Heather Balogh Rochfort, The Know, "Mountain biking trails that’ll get you home in time for dinner," 13 June 2019 Rock Creek Headwall falls 1,800 vertical feet from the plateau to a highway switchback below. John Nelson, latimes.com, "Beartooth Highway is fearsome fun, whether you're driving it or skiing it," 18 May 2018 But, ultimately, at their core, roller coasters aren’t much different than 15th century Russian ice slides, the Pennsylvania coal carts, switchback railways, and wooden up-and-downs of time’s past. Matt Blitz, Popular Mechanics, "From Death Traps to Disneyland: The 600-Year History of the Roller Coaster," 13 Aug. 2018 Within a short distance, the trail makes a sharp turn to the right and begins a downhill plunge on long switchbacks. Mare Czinar, azcentral, "Flagstaff hike: Fay Canyon is a mellow, woodsy walk," 16 May 2018 Drivers negotiated snow-lined mountain passes in the Alps; switchbacks slick with rain along lakes Maggiore, Como, and Garda; and backcountry lanes not much wider than a Vespa before reaching Venice on a Friday evening. Mraz, Town & Country, "A Venetian Affair," 20 Dec. 2012 To accommodate the rising tide of hikers, the conference has been rebuilding parts of the trails, including adding stone stairs, switchbacks and trail markers. Hikers take a photo on Breakneck Ridge overlooking the Hudson River. Lara Korte, WSJ, "Hike Spike for Trails Along Metro-North Stops," 29 July 2018 Using switchbacks, the trail climbs more than 1,000 feet in a mile to Deer Flat (3.57 miles in) and to Meridian Ridge Fire Road. Tom Stienstra, San Francisco Chronicle, "Sunday getaway to Mitchell Canyon," 6 May 2018

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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Statistics for switchback

Last Updated

3 Jul 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for switchback

The first known use of switchback was in 1863

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More Definitions for switchback



English Language Learners Definition of switchback

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

More from Merriam-Webster on switchback

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with switchback

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for switchback

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