whip·​saw | \ ˈhwip-ˌsȯ How to pronounce whipsaw (audio) , 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

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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 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 With a head like a wrecking ball, a tail like a whipsaw, and the hind legs of a wallaby, MarmaLuke crashed into our home, a hand grenade detonating several décor and lifestyle changes, all of which have made us ― if not our home ― better. Marni Jameson, orlandosentinel.com, "8 reasons not to get a dog, and why I have 3," 31 May 2019 But abolishing the filibuster could also make laws vulnerable to quickly being undone by a new Senate majority, leading to an unstable whipsaw effect as laws are signed by one president and quickly undone by another. New York Times, "Climate Town Hall: Several Democratic Candidates Embrace a Carbon Tax," 4 Sep. 2019 The president’s rhetorical whipsaw came against the backdrop of tense but cordial meetings in Biarritz. Michael D. Shear, BostonGlobe.com, "Trump sends contradictory signals on trade war with China," 25 Aug. 2019 The Angry Birds Movie 2 A tonal whipsaw that doesn’t have conviction to invest in its own premise. SFChronicle.com, "Capsule movie reviews for Aug. 18," 14 Aug. 2019 The threat of such moves can provoke price swings, whipsaw capital flows and fuel volatility. Washington Post, "Currency Wars," 14 Apr. 2015 Investors are about to buy billions of dollars in mainland Chinese stocks even as trade tensions whipsaw markets. Asjylyn Loder, WSJ, "Indexes to Unleash Flood of Money Into Chinese Stocks," 16 May 2019 Recent Examples on the Web: Verb Uncertainty around WeWork’s future has whipsawed its bonds in recent weeks. Los Angeles Times, "WeWork faces executive exodus as SoftBank cuts valuation below $8 billion," 18 Oct. 2019 The continual trade posturing by the White House and Chinese officials have whipsawed stock markets since trade negotiations began in earnest late last year. Thomas Heath, Washington Post, "U.S. stocks jump on optimism ahead of White House meeting with Chinese officials," 9 Oct. 2019 Investors continued to tamp down their fears of an all-out trade war between the world’s two biggest economies and bought stocks that had been whipsawed by the threats the U.S. and China have leveled at one another. Georgi Kantchev, WSJ, "Dow Industrials Rise as Trade Worries Dampen," 21 Sep. 2018 Ever since last year, nothing has grabbed economists' attention as much as the whipsawing evolution of the US-China trade war. CNN, "Here's what is really causing the global economic slowdown," 24 Oct. 2019 Markets have been whipsawed for months by the ups and downs in the dispute. San Diego Union-Tribune, "Asian shares rise despite worries on US-China talks," 7 Oct. 2019 Board members remained supportive of Mr. Musk, several people familiar with its discussions said, but some were whipsawed by the tweets. Tim Higgins, WSJ, "Public Bravado, Private Doubts: Inside the Unraveling of Elon Musk’s Tesla Buyout," 27 Aug. 2018 Trade tensions have whipsawed stocks over the past months as investors fret that any escalation could harm the global economy. Janna Herron, USA TODAY, "Dow, stock futures ready for a higher open after temporary trade truce emerges with China," 1 July 2019 The latest salvos in the U.S.-China trade war whipsawed markets after President Trump escalated the conflict with fresh tariffs. Washington Post, "U.S. stocks fall as investors weigh trade war impact on profits," 10 Aug. 2019

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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Time Traveler for whipsaw

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

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Last Updated

25 Nov 2019

Cite this Entry

“Whipsaw.” The Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Inc., https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/whipsaw. Accessed 8 December 2019.

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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

Rhyming Dictionary: Words that rhyme with whipsaw

Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about whipsaw

Comments on whipsaw

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to constrict the range or activity of

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