whip·​saw | \ ˈ(h)wip-ˌsȯ How to pronounce whipsaw (audio) \

Definition of whipsaw

 (Entry 1 of 2)

: a narrow pit saw averaging 5 to 7¹/₂ feet (1.5 to 2.3 meters) in length


whipsawed; whipsawing; whipsaws

Definition of whipsaw (Entry 2 of 2)

transitive verb

1 : to saw with a whipsaw
2 : to beset or victimize in two opposite ways at once, by a two-phase operation, or by the collusive action of two opponents wage earners were whipsawed by inflation and high taxes

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A whipsaw is a type of handsaw worked by two people, one of whom stands on or above the log being sawed and the other below it, usually in a pit. The tool dates back to the 15th century, but it was not until the 1870s that anyone thought to use the saw's name figuratively to describe situations in which someone or something is doubly "cut," or hurt. Today, the word is commonly used when discussing financial crises or losses. For example, just recently a chief executive explained in a press statement that his company was "whipsawed in the fourth quarter as key industries were hit by a rapidly deteriorating economy and plunging commodity prices." (The New York Times, January 27, 2009)

Examples of whipsaw in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web: Noun For years, carbon prices suffered whipsaw volatility as trading volumes languished at low levels. David Hodari, WSJ, 3 June 2021 The dizzying whipsaw of regulations forced many restaurants to limit capacity and often lay off staff members. New York Times, 16 May 2021 The governor spent much of 2020 on the defensive for whipsaw decisions during the depths of the pandemic that angered many business owners and residents. BostonGlobe.com, 15 May 2021 In its third season, these realities have reflected the news cycle in a particularly astonishing way; no other show has captured the whipsaw nature of life in the last year as acutely. Los Angeles Times, 21 Apr. 2021 The complex and constantly changing guidelines, tracked by The Times in a new database, created a whipsaw effect in which businesses were open one week, only to close again within days. Melody Petersen Staff Writer, Los Angeles Times, 9 Apr. 2021 One of the biggest issues facing Lamont is the whipsaw effect of politics and the fast-changing fortunes that are hard to predict - as shown by the changing, unpredictable news of the past year with the coronavirus. Christopher Keating, courant.com, 15 Mar. 2021 After a year of going to school during a global health crisis, the toll the pandemic’s whipsaw disruption has taken on students is beginning to emerge. Anna Esaki-smith, Forbes, 4 Mar. 2021 Democrats are advancing his $1.9 trillion plan for stimulus and relief with a fast-track procedure that limits their policy options but increases the odds of avoiding more whipsaw delays. New York Times, 12 Feb. 2021 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb As social media companies banned him for his posts leading up to the insurrection, Trump lost the connections that gave him the power to whipsaw the world. Michael D'antonio, CNN, 3 June 2021 Elon Musk continued to whipsaw the price of bitcoin, briefly sending it to the lowest since February after implying in a Twitter exchange Sunday that Tesla Inc. may sell or has sold its cryptocurrency holdings. Patrick Mchale And Yueqi Yang Bloomberg, Los Angeles Times, 16 May 2021 Elon Musk continued to whipsaw the price of Bitcoin, sending it to the lowest since February after implying in a Twitter exchange Sunday that Tesla Inc. may sell or has sold its cryptocurrency holdings. al, 17 May 2021 That the mercurial Musk’s tweets can whipsaw investment prices became evident in just the last few days. Michael Hiltzik, Los Angeles Times, 13 May 2021 DraftKings has been caught under pressure alongside high-flying companies that have yet to turn a profit like Uber and Teladoc Health as inflation fears whipsaw the broader market. BostonGlobe.com, 12 May 2021 Stimulus checks have the potential to whipsaw expectations for many retailers, but perhaps none more so than dollar stores. Jinjoo Lee, WSJ, 27 Aug. 2020 Whereas the competitions in pursuit of those goals lasted years, even decades, the pandemic is measured in months, and its problems can whipsaw the world in matters of weeks or days. Grace Huckins, Wired, 11 Aug. 2020 Americans are being whipsawed between a vacation no one wanted and racial unrest no one expected. John Gurda, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, 4 June 2020

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'whipsaw.' 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 whipsaw


15th century, in the meaning defined above


1842, in the meaning defined at sense 1

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The first known use of whipsaw was in the 15th century

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Last Updated

14 Jun 2021

Cite this Entry

“Whipsaw.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whipsaw. Accessed 25 Jul. 2021.

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More from Merriam-Webster on whipsaw

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about whipsaw


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