third rail

noun

Definition of third rail

1 : a metal rail through which electric current is led to the motors of an electric vehicle (such as a subway car)
2 : a controversial issue usually avoided by politicians

Examples of third rail in a Sentence

Social Security is the third rail of American politics.
Recent Examples on the Web Even minor changes, such as a new shirt design or an alteration of a club crest, can be like grabbing soccer’s third rail. New York Times, 20 May 2022 Fuel cells are an attractive way to electrify rail lines where adding a third rail or catenary is unworkable or cost-prohibitive, and GM is working with train-maker Wabtec to adapt GM's Hydrotec fuel cell platform to power freight locomotives. Jonathan M. Gitlin, Ars Technica, 20 Apr. 2022 My belief is immigration has become the third rail of politics on both sides. Philip Elliott, Time, 30 Apr. 2022 It was believed to be caused by a small bag of garbage that was ignited by the third rail. Bradford Betz, Fox News, 27 Apr. 2022 But also high on the list, is the President's continued flirtation with the third rail of French politics -- raising the retirement age to 65 years. David A. Andelman, CNN, 6 Apr. 2022 The unfortunate reality—still considered a political third rail—is that the only policy that addresses these costs would be one that reduced the amount of meat produced. Jan Dutkiewicz, The New Republic, 6 Jan. 2022 But adolescent sexuality and the biological changes that come with it have remained a third rail. New York Times, 7 Mar. 2022 To be fair, musical numbers have always had the potential to be a third rail. Washington Post, 22 Mar. 2022 See More

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'third rail.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

First Known Use of third rail

1867, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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Time Traveler for third rail

Time Traveler

The first known use of third rail was in 1867

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Dictionary Entries Near third rail

third personal

third rail

third-rate

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Statistics for third rail

Last Updated

26 May 2022

Cite this Entry

“Third rail.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/third%20rail. Accessed 26 May. 2022.

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