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 switchbacks up the south flank are clear of snow, with great views across to Lake Almanor. Tom Stienstra, SFChronicle.com, "A ‘Midsummer Night’s Spring’ brings Lassen Park to life," 14 Aug. 2019 To build the new trail system, stairs were replaced with slow-rising switchback trails that are paved with decomposed granite. Pam Kragen, San Diego Union-Tribune, "Palomar College’s arboretum to reopen with access-for-all trails in September," 11 Aug. 2019 Get there by walking switchbacks uphill from downtown, or just drive up. Mary Bergin, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "3 small towns for a summer getaway in Wisconsin," 11 July 2018 The images race along the river’s twisty aqua switchbacks as if trying to keep up, in a dizzying fashion, and then, suddenly, there’s the sea: freedom, danger of a different kind. Sarah Larson, The New Yorker, "“Best of Luck with the Wall” Puts the Borderlands Back in Context," 5 Aug. 2019 Turn in, and climb a rocky series of switchbacks as the trail rises. Charles Fleming, latimes.com, "L.A. Walks: Explore an old winery site on a La Crescenta ramble," 12 July 2019 There are switchbacks that rise to a wide shelf across from Dakota Ridge before dropping into Red Rocks Park. John Meyer, The Know, "The best trail running routes along the Front Range," 22 July 2019 The motorists slogged on across the Rockies through narrow mountain passes and steep switchbacks. al.com, "America’s military accomplished an amazing feat 100 years ago -- driving across country," 7 July 2019 Just getting to the ski area was risky for some who left their cars a couple switchbacks up the road to Loveland Pass and hiked down to beat the vehicular backup. John Meyer, The Know, "Arapahoe Basin turns red, white and blue for Fourth of July skiing," 4 July 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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Statistics for switchback

Last Updated

28 Aug 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

Comments on switchback

What made you want to look up switchback? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


readily or continually undergoing change

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