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switch·​back ˈswich-ˌbak How to pronounce switchback (audio)
: a zigzag road, trail, or section of railroad tracks for climbing a steep hill
switchback adjective


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switchbacked; switchbacking; switchbacks

intransitive verb

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

Examples of switchback in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
This 300-mile route is most often tackled by travelers on the back of motorbikes looking to brave the mountain switchbacks that descend into the thick jungle and pass from small village to small village. Meagan Drillinger, Travel + Leisure, 4 Feb. 2024 View Photos The Route Napoléon, which climbs north from the French Riviera to Grenoble, is widely considered one of the best driving roads in Europe, with a spectacular collection of narrow switchbacks and high-speed curves connected by brief straights. Joe Lorio, Car and Driver, 4 July 2023 My hiking shadow wore Nike tennis shoes, a concerning footwear choice for descending steep icy switchbacks. Lila Seidman, Los Angeles Times, 11 Jan. 2024 This guided, moderate-to-strenuous 2-mile hike, starting from the park visitor’s center, will take the switchbacks of the Panoramic Overlook Trail up to a scenic overlook of the Borrego Valley and Fonts Point. The San Diego Union-Tribune Staff, San Diego Union-Tribune, 26 Dec. 2023 Katie Lockhart Roughly half the size of Indiana, Bhutan is defined by landscapes of emerald green fir trees, patchwork quilts of farmland, and endless switchback roads. Katie Lockhart, Robb Report, 12 Dec. 2023 On the steep, winding switchbacks from Marrakech to Al Haouz, ambulances with sirens blaring and honking cars veered around piles of Mars-like red rock that had tumbled from the mountainside and blocked the road. Sam Metz and Mosa'ab Elshamy, Chicago Tribune, 9 Sep. 2023 These scenic paths capitalize on natural landscape contours, using sweeping switchbacks to ease climbs and tight hairpin turns to propel trail users around ravines and gullies. Mare Czinar, The Arizona Republic, 8 Sep. 2023 The four-mile out-and-back trail is short but steep and full of switchbacks. Jeff Ficker, Travel + Leisure, 7 Sep. 2023
Cable cars have become relatively regular modes of transport for residents of the mountainous northern region of Pakistan, where journeys along switchback roads climbing steep slopes or descending into deep valleys can take hours to cover just a few miles as the crow flies. Salman Masood, New York Times, 22 Aug. 2023 Prepare to be blown away by Sardinia's west coast, where the road swerves around cliffs, wiggles across bridges, and switchbacks through towns and villages spilling down the cliffside. Julia Buckley, Travel + Leisure, 9 Aug. 2023 The serpentine road cuts back and forth up the mountain, each of its dozen or so switchbacks tight and steep. Michael Barry, WSJ, 25 May 2023 This is a land of chestnuts, almonds, olive oil and vineyards, as well as rocky outcrops and switchback roads. Tom Mullen, Forbes, 24 July 2022 Montoya, who lives along a dirt switchback 15 miles from here in Newcomb, N.M., began focusing on contact tracing in April. Los Angeles Times, 7 Dec. 2020 Scientists have observed bursts of energetic particles never seen before on such a small scale, as well as switchback-like reversals in the out-flowing solar magnetic field that seem to whip up the solar wind. Fox News, 11 July 2020 See More

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'switchback.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

First Known Use


1863, in the meaning defined above


1903, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of switchback was in 1863

Dictionary Entries Near switchback

Cite this Entry

“Switchback.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/switchback. Accessed 3 Mar. 2024.

Kids Definition


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

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