\ ˈswich How to pronounce switch (audio) \
plural switches

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
5a : a device for making, breaking, or changing the connections in an electrical circuit
b : a software icon that is used to select between one of usually two available states Tap Edit and then toggle the switch next to each supported service to the appropriate setting.— Jason Cipriani Other features … include: … A software switch that lets you change the side button's function to be either volume mute or orientation lock.— Matt Rosoff
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 How to pronounce switchable (audio) \ adjective
switcher noun

Synonyms for switch

Synonyms: Noun

flogger, lash, scourge, whip

Synonyms: Verb

change, commute, exchange, shift, substitute, swap, trade

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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

Maybe, just maybe, winning this century-old competition somehow would flip a switch and become a catalyst and a symbol that the next five years for Orlando City will be better than the last five years. Mike Bianchi, Pro Soccer USA, "Atlanta United crushes Orlando City’s dreams — again," 8 Aug. 2019 Republicans and Democrats have been at odds over electric vehicles, which represent a threat to gasoline and diesel demand in the decades ahead as drivers make the switch. James Osborne, Houston Chronicle, "Senators agree to spend billions on electric car infrastructure," 29 July 2019 Many Komen affiliates around the country have made the switch from Race for the Cure to the More Than Pink Walk, Dunham said, but the Komen Colorado Springs Race for the Cure will take place as usual at the Garden of the Gods on Sept. 8. John Meyer, The Know, "Denver’s Race for the Cure rebrands as number of walkers drops from 65K to 10K," 29 July 2019 Ambitions are high within the company but creating boozier, market-friendly beer isn’t as simple as flipping a switch, Stewart said. Justin Phillips, SFChronicle.com, "Little Creatures brings a huge new brewery in Mission Bay," 26 July 2019 Gardner touted the fact that Frederick County has not raised taxes since making the switch. Mary Grace Keller, baltimoresun.com/maryland/carroll, "Charter government pros and cons examined as Carroll County commissioners prepare to hear options," 24 July 2019 In Zambia, for example, StarTimes entered into a joint venture called TopStar with state broadcaster ZNBC to help the country make the switch to digital TV. CNN, "How China is slowly expanding its power in Africa, one TV set at a time," 23 July 2019 Alan Bean, sitting next to Conrad, recognized the command and flipped the switch. Eric Berger & Lee Hutchinson, Ars Technica, "The Greatest Leap, part 5: Saving the crew of Apollo 13," 20 July 2019 Mr Schwarzman confesses that Blackstone might have been better off making the switch sooner. The Economist, "Stephen Schwarzman says that Blackstone is not done growing," 29 June 2019

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

They were given 15 minutes to switch into the right color but the team was unfortunately unable to get the white shirts in time from the athletes’ village, allowing Colombia to be awarded the 20-0 victory. Georgia Slater, PEOPLE.com, "Argentina Basketball Team Forced to Forfeit Pan American Games Match-Up — Because of Wrong Uniforms," 9 Aug. 2019 Other recommendations are easy to switch on by simply clicking Enable on the right. Nicole Carpenter, Time, "Here's How to Free Up Space On Your iPhone," 8 Aug. 2019 For one thing, there’s very little wrestling at all until the fifth episode, when the performers decide (without consulting their befuddled producer, Bash—played by Chris Lowell) to switch roles at the last minute to liven things up. Sophie Gilbert, The Atlantic, "GLOW Goes Post-plot," 8 Aug. 2019 Traders said that on trips abroad, clients asked them to switch hotels in the middle of the night. Farnaz Fassihi, New York Times, "U.S. Sanctions Turn Iran’s Oil Industry Into Spy vs. Spy," 8 Aug. 2019 Occasionally the magnetic field experiences a complete polarity reversal, causing the magnetic north and south poles to switch places, although no one knows exactly what causes this turnabout. Emily Toomey, Smithsonian, "Earth’s Magnetic Field Could Take Longer to Flip Than Previously Thought," 8 Aug. 2019 Prudence advised her to switch plates w/ her husband. Cady Drell, Marie Claire, "Hot New Trend Alert: Poisoning Your Son’s Wife," 7 Aug. 2019 Barr encourages people who want to help start simple and try to switch 10% of their spending to local businesses. Tirion Morris, azcentral, "Local restaurants struggle in the summer. Here's how they cope and what you can do to help," 4 Aug. 2019 The idea is basically that dirty growth eventually provides the resources to switch to cleaner options. Scott K. Johnson, Ars Technica, "China is on track to beat its peak-emissions pledge," 30 July 2019

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


1597, 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

12 Aug 2019

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for switch

The first known use of switch was in 1597

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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
US : 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 How to pronounce switch (audio) \

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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More from Merriam-Webster on switch

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with switch

Thesaurus: All synonyms and antonyms for switch

Spanish Central: Translation of switch

Nglish: Translation of switch for Spanish Speakers

Britannica English: Translation of switch for Arabic Speakers

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about switch

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).


a period when something is suspended

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