whip·saw | \ˈhwip-ˌsȯ, ˈwip-\

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

Keep scrolling for more

Did You Know?


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

Bloomberg’s bond market reporter Brian Chappatta talks about the Treasury whipsaw with host Ramy Inocencio. Dana Pardini, Bloomberg.com, "Everything You Need to Know This Morning From Daybreak (Podcast)," 10 Jan. 2018 Democratic Federal Communications Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel wants the OTA back too, given the whipsaw pace of new tech arrivals. Clive Thompson, WIRED, "Why Congress Needs to Revive Its Tech Support Team," 13 July 2018 The whipsaw crest of the Rocky Mountains is visible from a hundred miles away. Porter Fox, Outside Online, "Exploring America's Forgotten Border," 1 June 2018 The rapid shift from provocative steps to summit diplomacy illustrates the whipsaw approach the President has adopted on the global stage. Jeremy Diamond And Kevin Liptak, CNN, "Sources: Trump sought to evacuate military families from South Korea before Olympics," 15 May 2018 Southern California is home to the largest Korean population outside of Asia and Ms. Kim is one of many Korean-Americans here feeling a whipsaw of emotions over the administration’s actions in recent days. Jennifer Medina, New York Times, "Awe, Gratitude, Fear: Conflicting Emotions for Korean-Americans in the Era of Trump," 10 May 2018 During the Porter crisis, Kelly found himself under intense scrutiny for the veracity of his whipsaw statements. Washington Post, BostonGlobe.com, "John Kelly: Is White House chief of staff on the outside looking in?," 9 Apr. 2018 During the Porter crisis, Kelly found himself under intense scrutiny for the veracity of his whipsaw statements. Author: Ashley Parker, Josh Dawsey, Philip Rucker, Anchorage Daily News, "'When you lose that power': How John Kelly faded as White House disciplinarian," 8 Apr. 2018 The whipsaw changes roiled agriculture markets, and not everyone who makes a living off the land retained the same fealty to Trump as Wacker. Mathew Brown And Matt Volz, The Christian Science Monitor, "Trump trade policies cause deep ripples in agriculture country," 30 Apr. 2018

Recent Examples on the Web: Verb

One of the few hedge funds to survive the downswing in the commodity supercycle has a lesson for traders trying to navigate whipsawing aluminum prices: go short at your peril. Mark Burton, Bloomberg.com, "Aluminum Bears on Treacherous Ground as Supply Shocks Continue," 27 Apr. 2018 When the market hasn’t been whipsawed by the trade drama, it’s found comfort in strong corporate earnings and U.S. economic growth. Washington Post, "Trade tremors: How tariffs, tough talk has unsettled markets," 8 June 2018 Stocks rose on Wednesday in a roller-coaster trading session during which investors were whipsawed by updates on an escalating trade dispute between the United States and China. Matt Phillips And Prashant S. Rao, New York Times, "Stocks Rise on Wall Street Even as Trade Fight Between U.S. and China Grows," 4 Apr. 2018 Global stocks have been whipsawed in recent sessions as investors grapple with conflicting signals from senior officials in the Trump administration on future trade policy between the world’s two biggest economies. Riva Gold, WSJ, "The Scariest Place for Investors in a Trade War," 26 June 2018 Stocks eked out a gain amid late selling Friday to cap a quarter that’s seen equities whipsawed by escalating trade tensions and central-bank hawkishness. Jeremy Herron, BostonGlobe.com, "Stocks cap quarter with gains, dollar slumps," 29 June 2018 The talks in the Austrian capital were the latest steps in a process that has whipsawed oil markets for weeks. Wael Mahdi, Houston Chronicle, "OPEC seeks last minute compromise as Iran opposes supply boost," 22 June 2018 Daunting Task Oil has been whipsawed this month by uncertainty over whether major producers will ease their cuts. Grant Smith, Houston Chronicle, "Oil set for loss as OPEC supply clash looms," 15 June 2018 Jerry Morales, the mayor of Midland, Texas, and a local restaurateur, is being whipsawed by the latest Permian Basin shale-oil boom. Bloomberg, latimes.com, "Shale country is out of workers. That means $140,000 for a truck driver and 100% pay hikes," 8 June 2018

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.

See More

First Known Use of whipsaw


15th century, in the meaning defined above


1842, in the meaning defined at sense 1

Keep scrolling for more

Learn More about whipsaw

Listen to Our Podcast about whipsaw

Statistics for whipsaw

Last Updated

19 Aug 2018

Look-up Popularity

Time Traveler for whipsaw

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

See more words from the same century

Keep scrolling for more

More Definitions for whipsaw



Financial Definition of whipsaw

What It Is

A trader is said to be "whipsawed" when the price of a security suddenly moves in the opposite direction of a trade that he just placed.

How It Works

For instance, if a trader buys shares of Apple at $250/share, and over the course of the day the price drops to $230, the trader has been whipsawed.

Why It Matters

This usually occurs in a volatile market when traders are subjected to high risk. Short-term traders can be whipsawed often, but long term traders are likely to see better results over a longer time horizon.

Source: Investing Answers

More from Merriam-Webster on whipsaw

See words that rhyme with whipsaw

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about whipsaw

Comments on whipsaw

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


evasion of direct action or statement

Get Word of the Day daily email!

Test Your Vocabulary

Great Scrabble Words—A Quiz

  • scrabble-tiles-that-read-scrabble-quiz
  • Which of the following Q-without-U words means the number five in cards or dice?
Name That Thing

Test your visual vocabulary with our 10-question challenge!


Test Your Knowledge - and learn some interesting things along the way.


Love words? Need even more definitions?

Subscribe to America's largest dictionary and get thousands more definitions and advanced search—ad free!