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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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 The whipsaw nature of the state’s regulations, praised for being prescient in March, has left many in the nation’s most populous state confused, angry and worried that the virus is spreading faster than it can be contained. Scott Wilson, Washington Post, "California reverses reopening as coronavirus cases spike," 30 June 2020 The whipsaw action came just one day after a historic rout that saw the blue-chip index drop by 2,013 points, the most ever. NBC News, "Stock markets rally, with Dow surging 1,000 points at closing bell," 10 Mar. 2020 Money managers at the firm have been telling clients to stick with their current investment plan even as the stock market drops and rebounds, creating a whipsaw effect that’s enough to nauseate even the sturdiest investors. Los Angeles Times, "Coronavirus is slamming markets. What’s an investor to do?," 12 Mar. 2020 The whipsaw events of recent days have bewildered much of Washington, including some of the people around the president and his attorney general. Peter Baker, New York Times, "How Trump’s Relationship With Barr Got So Complicated," 14 Feb. 2020 The whipsaw of weather and market forces make for long seasons of uncertainty. Autumn Schoolman, Indianapolis Star, "'It keeps getting hotter and wetter': Indiana farmer doesn't need science to tell him climate change is to blame," 4 Feb. 2020 The president’s rhetorical whipsaw came against the backdrop of tense but cordial meetings in Biarritz, France. Michael D. Shear, New York Times, "Trump Offers Contradictory Signals on China Trade War," 25 Aug. 2019 One described the effect as a whipsaw, saying the company and union would try to convince workers to accept a bad deal or see jobs shipped away. Eric D. Lawrence, Detroit Free Press, "UAW, FCA talks take center stage, but easy agreement not guaranteed," 16 Nov. 2019 Only two trios have logged more 5-on-5 ice time over the past three seasons than Nashville’s whipsaw top line of Johansen, Viktor Arvidsson and Filip Forsberg. Alex Prewitt, SI.com, "Why Nashville Was Appealing Both on and Off the Ice for Matt Duchene," 18 Sep. 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Americans are being whipsawed between a vacation no one wanted and racial unrest no one expected. John Gurda, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "The coronavirus pandemic, collapsing economy and civil unrest are frightening. Wisconsin has seen worse and recovered.," 4 June 2020 Now the booming industry, and the nation’s equity market, are being whipsawed by the plunge in oil prices and fears over the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic. Vinicius Andrade, Bloomberg.com, "Money Manager Apologizes on Twitter After Brazil Funds Crushed," 8 May 2020 President Donald Trump's impeachment trial and the coronavirus pandemic whipsawed the American public in the first three months, but did not change the basic shape of Arizona's Senate race, at least financially. Ronald J. Hansen, azcentral, "Impeachment and pandemic don't change Mark Kelly's fundraising lead over Martha McSally in Senate race," 14 Apr. 2020 Stocks whipsawed Friday, with the Dow swinging more than 800 points from its session high to its low. Jessica Menton, USA TODAY, "Dow Jones Industrial Average slides 357 points on coronavirus fears as stocks post worst week since 2008," 28 Feb. 2020 Prompted by Republicans’ refusal to postpone the state’s primary, the Wisconsin meltdown whipsawed voters with on-again, off-again election plans, polling locations drastically reduced, and makeshift protections against contagion. Evan Halper, Los Angeles Times, "After chaos in Wisconsin, fight intensifies over how to carry out presidential election amid pandemic," 8 Apr. 2020 Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak On top of the risks to their safety, truckers — the backbone of the nation's shipping infrastructure — are being whipsawed economically. NBC News, "Truckers brave personal and economic risks to replenish shelves," 9 Apr. 2020 Oil prices whipsawed in reaction to differing reports about the possibility of Russia and Saudi Arabia reaching a deal to end their price war. The Economist, "Business this week," 8 Apr. 2020 Financial markets whipsawed this week as investors grappled with the potential economic hit from the virus that is upending daily routines around the world. Bloomberg Wire, Dallas News, "Stocks fall after WHO calls virus spread a pandemic," 11 Mar. 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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Last Updated

7 Jul 2020

Cite this Entry

“Whipsaw.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whipsaw. Accessed 8 Aug. 2020.

More from Merriam-Webster on whipsaw

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with whipsaw

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about whipsaw

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